As I See It Loren on abuses of pawnshopsJanuary 22, 2010
MANILA, PHILIPPINES–THE TALK OF THE TOWN’S SOCIAL CIRCLES ARE THE WEALTHY MATRONS WHO LOST THEIR PRIZED JEWELRY AND FAMILY HEIRLOOMS TO A SWEET-TALKING FORMER AIDE OF A PROMINENT SOCIALITE. IT SEEMS THAT THE AIDE PERSUADED THE MATRONS TO LET HER SELL THEIR JEWELRY AT A BIG PROFIT. SHE LEFT WITH THEM PERSONAL CHECKS AS GUARANTEE. AFTER THE SALE, SHE PAID THE OWNER, GOT BACK HER PERSONAL CHECK, AND SPLIT THE PROFIT.
Everything went well, until her checks began bouncing. When the owners asked for the return of their jewels, it turned out that she had pawned them with pawnshops. Her family offered to turn over the pawnshop tickets to the owners but they had to redeem the jewels themselves. Naturally, the matrons filed cases of estafa against her. And this is where the story becomes bizarre.
The wheels of justice just refuse to turn, and when they turn at all, they head in the opposite direction. The victims suspect it was because of the influence of the socialite. For one thing, the case of syndicated estafa has been pending in the Department of Justice for one year already. For another, when a judge issued a warrant for her arrest, she was confined in a private hospital instead, her family claiming that she suffered a nervous breakdown.
The victims asked the court to have her examined, treated and confined at the National Mental Hospital. Her family asked another court to issue a writ of habeas corpus for her. The writ asked that she be brought to court but then, acting beyond its jurisdiction, the court ordered her transfer to another private hospital. There, the victims lost track of her, the criminal cases against her are not moving at all, and they could not recover their jewelry. All of these were made possible by the influence of the socialite, the victims suspect, and they are at a loss as to what to do now. The government and the judicial system are not working to give them justice.
The case has reached the Senate. Sen. Loren Legarda delivered a privilege speech on the floor of the Senate which dwelt on the abuses committed by pawnshops that have become so lucrative that they are now “operating 24/7 and some opening more and more branches nationwide.”
As I see it, the prosperity of the pawnshops is due to poverty. When people run out of money, they pawn their jewelry and other valuables for some ready cash, hoping to get them back later when times get better.
But Loren’s speech was not to promote pawnshops. She wanted “to call the attention of the public,” she said, “particularly the concerned government agencies, to the abuses and injury that are being committed against the public through these pawnshops.”
She related the modus operandi of a “certain Ma. Elena So Guisande, a.k.a. Marilen Guisande … (who) goes around as an agent, victimizing investors, business people or the vulnerable individual with valuable assets—be it cash or jewelry. Pretending to be a buyer of expensive jewelry, she will get expensive pieces of jewelry from owners or fellow traders in exchange for guarantee checks she will issue. With the help of her cohorts… she will pawn trays and trays of jewelry, in exchange for quick cash, at allegedly conspiring pawnshops which do not even bother to verify or establish the ownership of these pieces of jewelry. Perhaps, pawnshop agents or tellers are aware of the questionable manner by which these personal properties or assets are sourced but, in the hope of earning from the transaction, would only just turn the other way and proceed with the transaction.”
Loren continued: “There is a need to take a closer look into the operations of the pawnshop business. Moreover, it is not only these pawnshops which should be prevented from violating the law but also those individuals who buy, at ridiculously low prices, these pieces of jewelry fraudulently acquired in our society—prices which are way below the market value and which would, and should, arouse suspicion on the circumstances in which these valuable properties were acquired.
“This is fraud multiplied many times over due to opportunistic people who have no qualms in abetting illegal acts.”
Going back to Guisande, Loren said: “She closes the accounts from which her checks are issued. On other occasions, she also induced small investors to entrust their money to her in exchange for guarantee checks, representing fixed returns on their investments. Again, she closes the accounts from which the checks were issued.
“Guisande preys on unsuspecting investors and business persons, capitalizing on friendship and relationships she forged with her victims. She worms her way into the confidence of her victims, using her long-term relationship with known society personalities, tapping them to instill confidence and trust in her.
“I am appalled at the notion that [people engaged in] these shady practices can go scot-free. How can these unscrupulous persons perpetuate these stunts with impunity? They must be stopped!”
“Our task as legislators does not only entail enacting vital pieces of legislation,” Loren reminded her fellow senators. “We carry the responsibility of making sure that these laws are implemented and the rights of the public are protected.”
As I see it, there is a lesson to be learned here. If you are poor, you wouldn’t have any jewelry that would tempt shady operators to con you. The victims, if you will note, are all wealthy who want to become even richer by selling their jewelry at huge profits. The operator capitalized on their greed. Even if you are rich with plenty of jewelry, you wouldn’t be victimized if you don’t want more, more, more.