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Kidnapping on the rise, say Philippines Chinese

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Kidnapping primers

Economic might

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MANILA, Philippines -- Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo enjoys an approval rating of almost 70 percent but she has yet to win over the Chinese community.

Some have come out to support the Arroyo administration. But most believe she will not be as good for them as her predecessor, Joseph Estrada.

That perception has been fuelled by what the community perceives as an increase in the number of kidnappings involving Filipino-Chinese victims since January 20, when Arroyo assumed power.

The private Citizen's Action Against Crime has recorded 26 abductions in the period between January 30 and April 26. Most of the victims were of ethnic Chinese origin.

But the anti-crime watchdog is having a tough time convincing the Philippine National Police that kidnappings are on the rise.

The CAAC has documented proof that there were 24 abductions between January 6 and March 30. Yet police figures show that the number of kidnappings in that period were only half that.

The disparity does not surprise CAAC spokesperson Teresita Ang See, who says many of the victims' families would rather pay a ransom than seek police assistance.

Sources have told CNN that the victims are afraid of approaching the authorities and reporting crimes. There is a perception that some police may also be members of the kidnap gangs.

Kidnapping primers

To help those who are afraid of approaching the police, the anti-crime watchdog has even published a pamphlet advising families on what to do "when someone becomes a kidnap statistic."

The group advises the victims' families to stay calm, not to be shocked or surprised if kidnappers ask for million-dollar ransoms, and not to make it "too easy" for kidnappers to get the money.

It teaches victims' families how to negotiate with the abductors, and to "draw a measure of comfort from the knowledge that victims, especially children, are usually well taken care of by kidnappers."

The pamphlets also advise families not to panic if their case or abduction is reported in the press.

Such publications highlight the community's need for reassurance from the government that its concerns are being addressed, See said.

Economic might

The cost of ignoring the Chinese community could prove to be expensive for the country, which is burdened by heavy economic problems.

The country's one million ethnic Chinese, who comprise 1.2 percent of the population, control between 20-22 percent of the wealth.

Sixty-five percent of the country's Japanese investors do business with Filipino Chinese businessmen, See said.

"They (the Filipino Chinese) are the capitalists, they are the wheels that run the development of the country. When they are demoralized, this will affect business sentiment," See warned.

That in turn will trigger capital flight because some businessmen either close up shop, move their businesses overseas, or send their children outside the Philippines to be educated.

"The Philippines needs to recover its business climate, but if people are worried for their lives, then there is no business confidence," the anti-crime advocate said.

Philippine Daily Inquirer
Philippine Star

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