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Trouble in the Philippines: What To Do (Or Not Do) When You’re in Hot Water

First off, if you get in Trouble in the Philippines, my advice always is…PAY THE FIRST PERSON that you can and walk away. They have NOTHING better to do and whether you did something wrong or not is irrelevant. Also, it is usually small money comparatively speaking to pay the very first person you encounter problems with versus dragging the issue out and end up paying a lot more than you would have. Pay up and shut up.

Sorry, this is the reality here. I do not make the rules, I only try to follow them. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. These are lessons discovered by myself and first-hand accounts from people I know who have encountered issues here in the Philippines, and the ones who paid the first person usually have the best experience from what I have heard. It is nothing against you being a foreigner here in the Philippines, or that you only have to pay a bribe to get out of trouble only because you are a rich foreigner. These cases apply equally to foreigners and Filipinos alike so do not feel like they are discriminating against you.

Personally, I am OK with this system as I come from a country where they can lock you in a room and throw away the KEY! In the Philippines, if you find yourself in trouble with the law, DO NOT call your embassy. They will NOT help you. It sounds pretty messed up, and I can agree with you in that aspect; it is. However, that’s how things are done here in the Philippines and the biggest mistake you can make is thinking that your home country will be there to protect you when you need them most. This, couldn’t be further from the truth and should not be your answer to getting out of trouble.

Dealing With Philippines Police

A friend of mine got in a wee bit of trouble on New Year’s Eve in Makati. Accused of grabbing a girls’ ass, he would not “pay her off” to keep her from calling the cops. Now, whether he did ass-grab or not is moot. Once the coppers came, the price went up as there were now more people to be paid. The price at this point was P5k, about $100.

Still, he would not pay for something he did not do so off they went to the Police Man station. OH NO, more people to pay and the price goes up.

Will Your Embassy Help if You’re in Trouble in the Philippines?

At this point, 4 am on Jan 1, he contacted me to call his embassy. They dutifully showed up, during office hours on Jan 2.

He found out two things. If you get in trouble in the Philippines, the embassy will not intercede on his behalf. They will only monitor the process to see he is treated fairly within the law.

Okay, BUT, my buddy has to get back to his six-figure contract job in another country. Time to negotiate with the cops for an “ early release”. Too bad, they said. Once the Embassy is involved they cannot just “disappear” the paperwork as it was officially being tracked by his government. So sad. It was now a case of involving MORE people as he had to be officially released and charges dropped by the Plaintiff and the Philippine government.

He was actually transferred to a “safe house” while negotiations took place at the highest levels. As each day passed the price went up with his anxiety level as his absence from work jeopardized his employment.

FINALLY, 5 days and FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS later he got on board an airplane.

Pay and Move On

My advice always is…PAY THE FIRST PERSON and walk away. They have NOTHING better to do and whether you did something wrong or not is irrelevant. Also, it is usually small money, comparatively. Pay up and walk away.

Remember, in Western countries, the same thing happens (false accusations, mistakes, etc.) but you cannot just buy your way out. It really is a nice option here in the Philippines if you are wanting to avoid a long and expensive trial, investigation, and so on.

On a side note. While being held in a cell with 18 other guys he had this conversation with a Filipino inmate:

“What are you in for?”

“Rape.”

“Why rape a girl when there are so many that will do it for nothing?”

“Oh, ….it wasn’t a girl”.

Makes it tough to sleep.

Traffic stops are handled differently here as well. The absence of a computer tracking system for motorists means they must be creative about collections. They really cannot attach a ticket electronically to your license so, to assure payment…THEY TAKE YOUR LICENSE on the spot.

Hmmm, not as fun as this creates a HUGE problem. You must then return to the “scene of the crime” days later, pay the fine & get your license back. Oh, sorry. I mean, find the place where your license is being held and stand in line at the inevitable 3 windows for the privilege of paying. That will waste the best part of any day. Did I mention this is usually outside in 30-degree heat with fixers pushing papers past you at the window and butting in front of the line? Get the picture? It’s no fun getting in trouble in the Philippines. So, tut-tut, at me all you want about my attitude. You will be singing a different tune once this happens to you.

If you would like more information on how you can stay out of trouble here in the Philippines, tips on avoiding any possible issues you might run into, or just get some pointers on how to get out of a predicament you might be in just give us a message and we will help you where we can. If you are wanting to get away from the chaos in the city of Manila and looking for a tropical island nearby you can escape to for a while, come visit us at any one of our BADLADZ Adventure Resorts right here in Puerto Galera less than 4 hours from Manila. We have a world-class Resort, international restaurant, semi-private beach, and refreshing swimming pool all steps away from our awesome beach here on Mindoro island. Contact us today and we will be glad to help you plan your next tropical vacation in paradise!

Cheers,

Sean

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