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EDITORIAL: Alien loan sharks

IF you haven’t noticed (because you are either dumb or blind), there is an upsurge of Indian population taking place in our city that most likely is happening, too, in other parts of our country. The mushrooming of these alien population, that we conveniently refer to as ‘Bombay’, should be a cause for alarm as they thrive in and eat up every profit in the underground economy with their usurious transactions, while making a mockery of our immigration laws without nary a whimper of protest from our concerned authorities. Not surprisingly, their prolonged illegal stay is a lucrative source of corruption among the otherwise concerned authorities, specifically the Bureau of Immigration. Of course, our Hindu brothers have been with us since our fathers and grandfathers, but not in large number as we have now. In the early years, we believe, most of them had been admitted to be legal residents after acquiring the necessary permits to eventually become naturalized citizens and therefore engage in legitimate business. By their number now, despite our strict immigration laws, we have reason to fear that many of these aliens do not have the necessary papers to keep their stay longer, and if they have, they should not be allowed to engage in any business, much more if they are illegal, such as the usurious so-called ‘5-6’ money lending scheme. According to our immigration laws, visitors who wish to stay in the country for a longer period of time have to apply for and obtain a visa before traveling. And a person who has been admitted into the Philippines as a non-immigrant cannot stay on permanently. One has to procure a visa before completing other formalities to be admitted as an alien resident in the country. None of those in Naga, we observed, has either married a Filipina to at least allow them, under special provisions, to stay and live as a couple in our country. Now, a question is being asked, who is or are making money out of admitting these aliens beyond what the law allows? Have we heard of an overstaying alien being banished or deported? A few years ago in our city, these Indian money lenders moved around and plied their illegal trade aboard cheap motorcycles, with a Filipino aide to help him collect the daily loan remittances from small vendors because they don’t speak our language. Today, we no longer see the Filipino sidekick, as we now see both Indians riding in tandem to do the lending and collecting by themselves, meaning they had already learned, over time, how to communicate in our language, in and around public markets, tiangge, sari-sari stores, and even among ambulant peddlers. And this is no small business. A mean business it is, but because of the sheer number of loan takers wanting to make a living even with a borrowed capital at unconscionable rates, millions of pesos are being raked in by the alien money lenders, with not a single centavo paid to the government in the form of taxes! Simply put, the government can’t tax an illegal business. It is as if the illegal transaction does not exist, even if the money lenders are becoming bolder and wealthier at the expense of our poor small time traders. It is not surprising therefore, that these tall, lanky, heavily bearded loan merchants (or loan sharks, to be precise) now live in big houses, riding the latest car model, and sending their children to better schools, even if their immigrant status are suspect. Of course, we can’t blame the loan takers. Our government, including our banks (who are themselves usurious in their own trade), do not have the facility to extend small loans at lesser rates. What they have are complex paper requirements that these less educated traders can’t read. They and their children would certainly die if they would not work and earn even the smallest profit. When will our concerned authorities blow the whistle and bring order in our marketplace? Who will save our hapless small traders from being mired into more miserable lives even if every day you see them break their backs to pay their loans at exorbitant interest?

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