The news about Balikbayan boxes being opened, “modified” and stolen from has been doing its rounds in social media. There were photos, videos, horror stories and a lot of bashing towards the Bureau of Customs. Everyone who has experienced receiving or sending a package overseas has his own story to tell. Some didn’t get all that was sent to them, some received mishandled goods, and some had packages which were “pending” and “held up” at the bureau because you had to pay another round of taxes for it. Sadly, it’s obvious that we, Filipinos are being stolen from again.
Which leads me to thinking: are we okay with having thieves in our midst?
It wasn’t very long ago when the Janet Napoles NGO scandal came to light. Then there were lots of similar stories of corruption that made it to mainstream and social media. Thousands, millions and billions are being stolen from the national budget. Every year. And now that the elections are near, we already know at the back of our heads how several “government projects” are being prepped up for additional campaign budget.
And don’t forget the corruption happening in offices, private or public, big or small. In fact, we even have one of those “One of the Most Corrupt Countries” titles, haven’t we? Overcharging taxi drivers. Telecommunications networks charging us with more than what we signed up for. Some network marketing people who promise us the world but don’t follow through after we sign up. Women stealing husbands in our movies and our teleseryes. This bothered me, really. The balikbayan boxes issue was just the clincher. Honestly, it made me so embarrassed about this culture. Do we have no respect for the property of others? And how can we fight this?
For me the first step is to educate ourselves. We should read up on what our rights are, so we can call out on whoever is “stealing” from us. Second, let’s protect our properties as much as we can. Not everyone will have the same amount of conscience as you, and these crocodiles can really get as much as they can until they leave you dry. It will be a little tedious and tiring from the start, but we have to start somewhere, right? Third, if these thieves cannot be appeased by a gentle talk, we can always expose them. Being a Filipino—and a social media user— for quite a long time, I learned that sometimes, shaming, or the threat of shaming, can be a great deterrent. Couple it with some legal paperwork. A letter, a complaint, a blotter, can sometimes go a long way. Let’s continue to be educate ourselves, be vigilant and stop existing with thieves in our midst. We, Filipinos, deserve better.