Crime In The Philippines

By , Travel Insights Editor Philippines asia, philippines, scams, travel-crime, travel-safety

There aren’t too many travel destinations that don’t carry the risk of some sort of petty crime. Let’s face it – where there are tourists, there are criminals. The Philippines is, sadly, no exception. The beauty of this country hides a darker side where crime is an ongoing problem.

Are Jeepney's Safe?

Generally, yes, but It’s not a good idea to catch “jeepneys” at night, particularly if they have other passengers, or you risk being robbed. 

Petty crime is an issue in the Philippines, particularly in the more crowded areas, like shopping malls, markets and other busy public places. There have even been reports of pickpockets striking in church.

If you plan to spend time in touristy areas, or anywhere there are crowds of people, use appropriate precaution. Use a money belt or passport holder to carry your valuables, and keep it well concealed under your clothing. Some people suggest using a “throw away” wallet as a decoy, so if you are robbed the thief only gets away with a small amount of money.

Take extra care when using ATM’s, especially at night. Would-be thieves often lie in wait until they see someone withdraw money, then accost and rob them. 

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Manila - Big City With A Big Crime Problem

The Philippines has a moderately high rate of violent crime, particularly in the city of Manila. Incidents of violent robbery and assault occur frequently, and tourists are often targets. The biggest culprits of these acts are local criminal gangs, although it’s not unheard of for individual hoodlums to strike on their own.

1. Gun crime

Adding fuel to the fire is the substantial amount of Filipinos who own guns. This widespread gun ownership is very poorly regulated making it a recipe for disaster. 

Firearms are frequently used in the commission of crimes in the Philippines, and lend to the violent and highly dangerous nature. Avoid rural, unpopulated areas at night and try to travel in groups.

2. Random acts of violence

We're talking about scary things such as grenade attacks, which have occurred in recent years, and although they don’t necessarily target foreigners, because they tend to be aimed at large groups of people and places frequented by tourists, visitors can easily become victims simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

3. Kidnapping

The danger of kidnapping exists, particularly in south Philippines. This type of crime is believed to be due to the extensive poverty of the Filipino people, and foreigners are usually the ones targeted. 

4. Alcohol-Related crime

The consumption of alcohol is often the trigger of street fights and violent crime. The national liquor, a coconut concoction called Tuba, is typically mixed with Coca-Cola and consumed in large quantities. It is an extremely potent drink so if you plan to partake, avoid doing so in public taverns and only drink with people you know. Barroom brawls often involve not just fists, but guns and machetes as well so it’s not something you want to get involved with - especially if you’re inebriated.  

5. Drink spiking

Drink spiking is an issue – the locals refer to it as the “Atvian Scam” after the drug used in the crime. Victims are often robbed or assaulted while they are unconscious. If someone you don’t know offers you a drink that you didn’t watch being made, no matter how friendly they seem, don’t take it. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

While petty crime is typically non-violent, when it occurs at night or in rougher areas it could quickly turn dangerous. It’s no unheard of for a simple pickpocketing incident to escalate into assault or worse. 

See also: Women's Travel In India - It's A Man's World

Scams and Other Bad Stuff to Avoid

Scams are prevalent in the Philippines with local con artists hoping to get one over on visiting tourists. Here are the most common ones you'll encounter:

Scam 1. A familiar face

One of the more popular cons involves someone approaching a tourist and claiming to recognize them, often under the guise that they work at the hotel they’re staying at. Coincidentally when they “bump into” them, it’ll just happen to be their day off. They’ll offer to show the foreigner around and give them a free tour. Don’t fall for it - unless, of course, you’d like to be robbed.  These scams can happen anywhere tourists frequent, but Manila is a hot-spot so be on the look-out.

Scam 2. Taxi drivers

Some taxi drivers are dishonest, so be sure to insist that the meter be used to avoid being gouged on the fare.  It’s illegal for taxi drivers to solicit at airports, so if you are approached by one there it’s not a legal one.  You should also avoid hailing taxis that already have passengers as it increases the potential for crime.

Scam 3. Horse trading

You may see a lot of horse drawn buggies in the Manila area.  They may seem charming, but do so with caution.  If you decide to take a ride make sure you first negotiate an agreed on price and be firm.  Some visitors have reported the driver stopping halfway into the trip and getting out, turning the job over to their “boss”.  At the end of the ride, the new driver then demands up to 10 times the original fare amount.

The Philippines is an absolutely beautiful country, it's filled with natural wonders, adventure and cultural discovery. But as with most travel destinations, it’s not without risk of danger and the occasional crime. As long as you pay attention to your surroundings, avoid dangerous areas and take appropriate safety precautions, you’ll decrease the likelihood of becoming a victim and be able to enjoy this beautiful country safely.

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