Today marks the 120th death anniversary of our National Hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, whose remains are not buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, unlike those of a very corrupt president-turned-dictator named Ferdinand Marcos.
In a paper published by the Philippine Review of Economics, Dr. Maria Serena Diokno wrote about corruption and the moral imperative through the lens of Rizal: “Corruption in the Philippines is not a 20th-century invention. Rizal spoke lengthily of it, in rich detail.”
It is worthy to note that Diokno recently resigned as Chair of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines in protest against the clandestine Marcos burial at the heroes’ cemetery.
Among the most vigorous good governance advocates in the country are the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC). Founded in 1998 by Dante Jimenez and Lauro Vizconde, the VACC was previously chaired by “presidentiable” Martin Diño, who withdrew his candidacy at the last minute in favor of then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the eventual winner in the 2016 presidential race.
The crusade of this watchdog organization dedicated to eradicating corruption and criminality is far from over. VACC Vice Chair Manuel Obedoza Jr., a volunteer lawyer since 2010, has helped victims of heinous crimes in their pursuit of justice through various courts. One such victim is Manjinder James Kumar, an Indian national who was accused of a non-bailable offense in a Cavite court.
Kumar has been residing in the Philippines for more than 30 years and is married to a Filipina, with whom he has a child. Currently he is the president of the Filipino-Indian Welfare Society Inc., a non-stock, non-profit organization that looks after the welfare of Indian nationals in the country and fosters their harmonious relationship with Filipinos. He is also the president-elect of the Rotary Club of Makati-Nielsen.
Obedoza said that through the years, Kumar has embraced the Philippines as his home by following its laws, respecting its citizens and promoting its ideals like a true Filipino. He has been active in giving assistance to needy Indians and Filipinos, including victims of violent crimes committed by a syndicate of Indians against their fellow Indians, such as kidnapping for ransom, extortion and murder.
By initiating the prosecution of Indian syndicate members operating in the country, Kumar has become a target of retaliation, especially after he caused the detention of Gurdarshan Singh alias Geedee, the syndicate’s alleged leader. Geedee is presently detained at the Metro Manila district jail of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in Taguig City.
Most of Geedee’s associates are either detained or on the run, but continue their illegal activities meant to raise funds for their bail bonds and lawyers’ fees, as well as for bribing judges, prosecutors and law enforcers.
Sometime in 2008, Kumar experienced the vindictiveness of the syndicate when his brother Sandip was killed, with evidence pointing to Geedee as the main perpetrator.
Three years later, a warrant of arrest was issued against Geedee for attempted murder and carnapping with double homicide. This was due to a foiled kidnapping attempt on Kumar by Geedee’s cohorts, who managed to commandeer Kumar’s vehicle and kidnapped his long-time friends Andy Ngieh and Ferdinand Sales. Their bullet-riddled bodies were later found in Pangasinan and Bataan.
Ever since his detention at the BJMP district jail from 2014, Geedee has been issuing death threats to Kumar via cellphone calls, warning the latter to desist and withdraw the cases, otherwise his family and associates would be killed, just like what happened to his brother and two friends.
Apparently not satisfied with making death threats, Geedee has filed charges against Kumar and his associates, including some charges which were found to be fabricated and were thereafter dismissed.
But one of these cases has prospered, leading to the recent issuance of an arrest warrant against Kumar, his 66-year-old mother Balbir Kaur, and his associate Paramjit Singh. The latter two are now detained at the Manila and Bacoor City jails, respectively. Kumar, who believes they have been deprived of their right to preliminary investigation and due process, is still at large.
According to Obedoza, information reached him that whenever Geedee was being transported from his BJMP cell to the court and vice-versa, he would use private vehicles, without his handcuffs. In several instances, his police escorts allegedly dined with him in restaurants while on their way back to jail.
It is quite disturbing that legitimate businessmen still feel threatened at a time when the crime rate has reportedly gone down. We wish the New Year would bring good tidings to everyone, and may 2017 be the start of a genuine and lasting peace in our land.
J. Albert Gamboa is the chairman of the FINEX Golden Jubilee Book Sub-Committee and serves as consultant for private and public sector organizations.