Iloilo ‘Tsinoy’ community now safe from extortion, blackmail?

ABOVE THE BELT | ALEX P. VIDAL

“Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.”–Steve Jobs

NEW YORK CITY — We are elated to observe that the Filipino-Chinese community is no longer aghast at the peace and order situation in Iloilo City in the Philippines and appears to be “at home” with the present dispensation under the current local government and the Philippine National Police (PNP) leadership.

The situation has changed dramatically ever since Iloilo City Hall and the Tsinoy community were at odds more than 30 years ago; when the Tsinoy community and the PNP had a stormy relationship over allegations of extortion, harassment, blackmail, and “shabby” treatment accorded those who refused to toe the line with the powers that be.

Gone were the years when most members of the mestizo de sangley (sons and daughters of Filipino and Chinese parents) would never trust anyone in the City Hall and the PNP.

I was a City Hall beat reporter in 1989 when Mayor Roding Ganzon blasted Gen. Romeo Zulueta, Regional Command (Recom 6) director, for being allegedly involved in a kidnapping-for-ransom syndicate operating in Western Visayas.

When we asked Zulueta of his reaction, he could only mutter, “Naniniwala pa ba kayo kay Ganzon (Do you still believe Ganzon)?”

Zulueta neither denied nor challenged the late hard-hitting city mayor’s accusation that the police official was involved in the abduction of a prominent Filipino-Chinese millionaire and an Ilonggo media and jewelry magnate who were both released after reportedly paying millions of ransom.

Recom 6 is now the Regional Police Office 6 (RPO-6) headed by Chief Supt. John Bulalacao, a highly touted PNP official with a solid reputation and professionalism.

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If Ganzon’s charges against Zulueta were true (they weren’t substantiated and no formal cases were filed against the police general), it would be a perfect reason for the Tsinoy traders to abandon Iloilo City and put up their businesses somewhere else.

For any dyed-in-the-wool Tsinoy trader, putting up a business and staying put to manage that business in a squalid and unpredictable atmosphere, was like participating in a scary reality film.

The distrust and animosity was exacerbated by reports that some extortionists and blackmailers, introducing themselves as “City Hall employees” and “cops”, victimized business establishments in the Downtown, City Proper ran mostly by Tsinoy businessmen.

These were the years when bank robberies and other heists victimizing downtown establishments were rampant; and most of the perpetrators had direct or indirect linked with rogue cops.

The years when social media like Skype and Facebook didn’t exist yet.

The Filipino-Chinese community in Iloilo City was and is still one of the most well-organized and well oiled in the Philippines.

It is also very accessible and one of the country’s grandest and where some of the most prominent officials of the Philippine Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (PCCCII) in the national and local chapters belong.

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The entire physical structure or the Calle Real’s skeletal body is already part of the Filipino-Chinese business empire, where shoppers can buy all kinds of household, school, grocery, electrical, medical, and other industrial supplies.

This was the period when giant malls like SM City, Robinson’s, Gaisano City, etcetera, weren’t yet conceptualized and didn’t yet mushroom in the metropolis.

We are happy that there is now an atmosphere of bliss, cooperation, and prosperity among local officials, the PNP, and the Tsinoy community especially when they all recently combined their resources and talents in welcoming the Chinese New Year, also called Spring Festival or Lunar New Year.

No less than Philippine Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (PCCCII) Iloilo Chapter president Ramon Cua Locsin has confirmed that Tsinoy businessmen are now comfortable doing business and living in Iloilo City because they now feel safe and the environment is better compared in other cities, provinces, and municipalities in the Philippines.

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