This Week in the Philippines!! News and Happenings That Can Affect Expat Life – October 6, 2016.

This Week in the Philippines!

Three things stood out from the Philippines CNN newsfeed this past week.  Now, I know some of my subscribers (most actually) would prefer headlines from the Philippines FOX feed, but despite a great deal of searching, I couldn’t find it.  As a consolation, I will do the Livecast tomorrow in a blonde wig and risqué cocktail dress and try to channel Megan Kelly (no relation).

Arrested Selfie Developements!
Philippines police chief Ronald“Bato” Dela Rosa issued a directive this past week urging his officers not to take selfies with arrested celebrities.  (Quick Aside: Bato translates to “stone” in both Tagalog and Bisaya, so I just tend to refer to him as “The Rock).  The stocky chief of the Philippines National Police took this action following the release of a photo of two female officers taken with the actor Mark Anthony Fernandez who was arrested this week for possession of a kilogram of marijuana.  The photo quickly went viral on Facebook, prompting the chief to take quick action.

Bato made a public declaration stating “Though I don’t really see anything wrong with it, being their commanding officer.  But I would look bad to other criminals – it would look like we have a double standard.”  I take this as other non-celebrity criminals would be upset having to settle for simply a mug shot – not a full-on, potentially viral photograph of them with their arresting officers. 

“The Rock” is very popular with the Philippines population and has had a starring role in the government hearings on extrajudicial killings in the Philippines – which as this time total over 3,100 killings in the streets of this gentle island nation seeking to deal with the moral decay of drug abuse.

Chief Dela Roso brought his popularity up by adding “I understand that some officers can get starstruck.  A lot of people also get star struck with me.”

Two Chinese, One Russian and 130 Million Worth of Cocaine
Three foreign nationals were arrested this past week at the Ninoy Aquino Airport when inspectors discovered 28 kilograms of cocaine in their luggage worth an estimated 130,000,000 pesos.  Two of the young suspects were Chinese nationals from Honk Kong and one was a dapperly dressed young man from Russia.  The three suspects allegedly flew out of Brazil, took a connecting flight in Dubai and then landed in Manila. Customs officials perusing their luggage happened to come across the 28 kilograms of powdered cocaine and another two bottles of liquid cocaine.  Oddly enough, local Filipino authorities are saying that the three foreign suspects were not traveling together but just happened to all be on the same flights.  Following the discovery, the three suspects all claimed that they knew nothing of the drugs and that “friends” of theirs had asked them to carry luggage over to the Philippines for them.

Following drug testing, the three foreigners were detained pending an inquest and probable indictment.  Drug trafficking is a non-bailable offence in the Philippines and results in lifetime incarceration. 

Airport security at the NAIA has been having a banner week – a few days earlier they arrested a 22 year old Filipino who apparently tried to smuggle 5 kilograms of cocaine into the country.

Example of a Tokhang Leaflet in Quezon City

When the Police Come A’Knocking
The war against drugs in the Philippines is a very real thing, affecting just about every community around the Philippines.  Alleged bad-acting Filipinos are being arrested, shot and – in some cases as we noted above – having selfies taken with their arresting officers that quickly go viral.  A recent tactic being taken by the national police force is having officers go door-to-door to pass out flyers and request home inspections.  Police officials are calling this Operation Tokhang which is a contraction of Bisayan toktok (knock) and hangyo (plea, request; Tagalog pakiusap).  Several high end locations in Makati were visited by officers seeking to gather information under Operation Tokhang and give out printed materials regarding drug abuse.  In one area of the opulent neighborhood, 59 high-condominiums and 300 local establishments were approached by inquisitive inspectors – of these only two residents allowed their homes to be inspected.  A local police superintendent was noted as saying that there was no drug issues there as that part of Makati is a “rich community.”  Apparently, then, drug abuse is only affecting the poor.  He went on to encourage residents of the well-off community to inform on their neighbors if any drug activity is noted – which can be done by filing a complaint with the barangay captain or local police. 

An interesting addition to Operation Tokhang door-to-door approach is information being passed around on social media that there will be a “stickering” aspect to the plan in which households who submit to drug testing will be given a “Drug Free House” sticker by the authorities to place on their gate.  If nothing else (and all Constitutional issues aside), this is good news for the thousands of sticker shops throughout the Philippines.

Tune in for the “This Week in the Philippines” Livecast tomorrow morning at 9 AM local time (Thursday night 9 PM Eastern Standard Time).

It’s more fun in the Philippines!!!


  1. Ned, it sounds like you are becoming really unhappy here.

    Are you thinking about heading home or somewhere else in Asia?

    Rocel and I were watching the Bilibid prison investigation on CNN Philippines and mostly cheering.

    I get that some Americans in particular are not happy about what is happening with Duterte and the expat life.

    For us, we’re cool for now.

  2. Drugs are a difficult issue to tackle. They damage or destroy the lives of the user and adversely effect those surrounding the user. It has a greater affect on the very poor. They will even steal the rice from a hungry family to sell it just so they can get their drugs. This is fact.

    Duterte is having a great impact on the horrible problem over there. The measures are drastic, but the results are extremely rapid. In some areas the drugs have dried up. The lives that have been positively affected by this rapid change overcome a lot of the unwanted results of the violent rapid reduction in supply.

  3. Very Good Indeed Customs Work At NAIA.Three foreigners now awaiting lifetime. If not shot on “trying to escape”. Dutertes war on drugs OK. Doesnt affect my Whisky or Beers. Coca & shabu are bad. Marihuana could be used for pure medical reasons.

  4. I saw today they locked up a Canadian caught selling 160 Ecstasy tablets. Plus a 500,000 peso fine.

    He was caught in Makati in June, so that’s only 3 months or so.

    Bearing in mind how Gung Ho the current administration is on drugs, why take the risk?

  5. I would not let the cops search my house.
    As a foreigner I would be worried about the cops planting drugs for them to find and then trying to extort me.
    You never know the cops might even find bullets in my house.
    Am I paranoid in this attitude or am I being wise like most of the Filipinos appear to have been when they refused the cops entry to their condos and houses.
    I wonder if Mr Mark Anthony is lounging in prison as you say drug possession is a non-bailable offence and I wonder if he will get life because 1Kg of Marihuana is a commercial quantity or will he get off lightly because he is a movie star?

  6. Rocel’s brother is a regional manager for DILG. I’ve had the opportunity to watch how that works.

    I’m not too worried about being set up. A phone call asking for a visit would possibly help.

    1. G’day George
      What does DILG stand for, being ex-military which is full of people spouting jargon, I hate unexplained acronyms.
      I’m pretty sure ‘Life’ means life in the Philippines unless you are a celebrity or have a lot of money and now that Mr Duterte is in power celebrity or having a lot of money will not mean you get an easy sentence.
      If I was forced to have my house searched, I definitely would appreciate a phone call before they turned up but I would also insist that only 2 people were doing the search and that they all spoke English whilst doing the search and that the Baranguy Captain and a member of my Filipino family was present as well.
      No search by 5 or 10 cops where they can not be supervised and therefore the worry that evidence can be planted or people talking in Tagalog or if I have learned Tagalog by then not having them switching dialects to ensure I don’t understand what they are saying.
      But that still is not going to make me comfortable or less paranoid during the search.

  7. Sorry Martin, DILG is Department of the Interior and Local Government.

    They are responsible for oversight on all local government functions including law enforcement. They are also the oversight agency for the Philippine National Police through the National Police Comission.

    I agree completely about retaining control of a search. Where we are here is pretty relaxed. I would get the names of the officers and invite them back when we had ourselves organized.

    Through a very unfortunate death in the family we’ve had a fair bit of interaction with the police here, all of it positive.

    The link has the PNP/DILG relationship.

  8. Thanks George.
    Ned, just a suggestion for a future article or video.
    What are an Expats rights and responsibilities when dealing with the Philippines National Police and also other Philippines Government Departments and Bureaus at National, Provincial, City and Baranguy levels.
    I know Amor Propio, Hiya and SIR are important but what are our rights and probably more importantly how do we ensure that our rights are not infringed without causing a cultural ruckus that will ensure the officials get upset and as a result we lose.

  9. Martin, I’ve done some digging since this question was raised first.

    I can categorically tell you that in Bago City, Negros Occidental you will not have police knocking on your door and demanding entry to search your place.

    I have no opinion on what is happening elsewhere, but here it’s a complete non-issue.

    I was down at Batayan Park shooting the shit with the cops and their attitude was take a pill as drugs are not a big issue here.

    YMMV will vary a lot depending on where home is.

  10. George than it’s time u do it bcoz the multiple accusations from different sources is that (too) many Pinoy parents pimps their own daughters for money. Not so very nice. Next is googling Duterte. Also clearly chocking information. Good Luck George. Mike triple ex visitor

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