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NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 04 June) — When you are to invest for your future, whether in business or in politics, never forget the timeless caveat that “what is too good to be true is not true.”

The news that many again have become victims to another heaven-promising investment scheme carried out online known as paluwagan is disturbing and distressing.

Can’t people ever learn?

In face-to-face practice, a paluwagan is an informal lending system formed and funded by members who know each other and who verbally agree to its process. There is no legal document or a written agreement enumerating the responsibilities, obligations, and protection for the members to fall back when something goes wrong. The business is supposed to be for mutual help and what bound the members together is trust.

I was once a member of a paluwagan among my co-university employees. After some time, our treasurer-cashier could not account for some 50% of our share deposit.  Our fund which was supposed to grow with the accumulated interest on loans decreased instead. We had no legal basis to run after her. Administratively though, she could be hit for dishonesty and might lose her job. We didn’t want her to lose her livelihood. We decided to write off our losses. To avoid a repeat of the incident, we transformed the paluwagan into a credit coop registered with the Cooperative Development Authority.

In online paluwagan, those who join do not know each other, but this doesn’t bother them. Communication in the group is through Facebook and other social media platforms. Members are asked to deposit their investment in a bank account provided by the paluwagan administrator. They received promises of 100% return which will be deposited to their bank accounts after a few weeks. The high interest or dividends blinded the members on the impossibility of such promises. Because greed has no limit, many invested much to earn more. Thus, they lost thousands of pesos of hard-earned money or life-time savings.

Filipinos never learn.

In a not so distant past, thousands in Mindanao fell prey to one of the biggest financial fraud scandals in Philippine history – the Kapa- Community Ministry International (Cebuano: Kabus Padatuon, literally “enrich the poor”; a.k.a Kapa). Farmers lost their farm animals or even their farms, and pensioners, their money for sustenance through their twilight years, to Kapa’s pyramidal scheme of robbing Pablo to pay Pedro. Some victims, unable to bear their tragedy, committed suicide.

Filipinos never learn. They were also duped in 2016 by a southern crusader who promised to end the drug menace and corruption that have corroded the Filipino soul in three to six months; and to assert the country’s territorial sovereignty and protect its territorial integrity in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). 

The reverse happened when he took residence in Malacanang. The illegal drug proliferated beyond imagination despite the killing of thousands of drug addicts and petty drug pushers. Corruption went haywire, pushing, in fact, the country near to becoming a narco state; and becoming more rampant and pronounced during the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead of securing our sovereignty in the WPS, the gains in the Hague arbitral rulings were shrugged off on the puerile justification that challenging the Chinese aggressors is suicide. Thus, Chinese maritime militia fishers have swarmed to this day in our exclusive economic zone and are raking to satiation our marine resources, destroying the habitats and driving out our own fishermen from their traditional fishing grounds.

The Chinese also flooded the country as migrant workers, legally, as online gambling operators; and, illegally, as drug and human traffickers, money launderers and kidnappers.

In 2022, an immediate descendant of an ousted dictator and plunderer promised to end shortages of basic commodities, particularly rice, and to bring it from P40 or so to P20/kg. He now resides in the palace by the Pasig and nothing promising is obtaining from his promises to date when he is about to conclude his first year in office as President of the Republic and as the country’s food security czar. Not just rice, but sugar, onion, pork and fish are in short supply. Only the illegal drug is in great supply, which has persisted in corrupting the country’s law enforcers.

If it is too good to be true, it is not true.

It can be a six-year scam.

Can’t we ever learn?

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental)

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