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15.1 Patterns of Organised Crime in the Philippines

Its geographical location and archipelagic coastline make the Philip-

pines particularly vulnerable to the smuggling of contraband. Com-
prehensive enforcement of the long maritime borders is very difficult
and explains the relatively high incidence of crimes such as piracy,
firearms smuggling, and drug trafficking. There are, to date, very few
systematic reports on the levels of organised crime in the Philippines.
The main source of information is the Philippine Centre on Trans-
national Crime which was established by the Government to conduct
and disseminate research on this phenomenon.
Much of the available documentation crystallise drug trafficking
and trafficking in persons as the chief organised crime problems in
the Philippines.878 For example, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime
(UNODC), citing the Philippines Dangerous Drugs Board, recently
reported that in 2007, eight transnational drug trafficking groups were
operating in the Philippines, often in concert with one or more of the
249 reported domestic groups.879 Further, trafficking in persons, espe-
cially women, from the Philippines occurs at very high levels. In 2000,
it was estimated that 143,611 Filipina women had left the country and
ended up working in slavery-like conditions abroad.880 The smuggling
of firearms and other contraband have also been described as ‘ram-
pant’. According to other research papers published by the Philippine
Centre on Transnational Crime, drug trafficking, motor vehicle theft,
illegal gambling, prostitution, piracy of software and other intellectual

See generally, James Finckenauer & Ko-Lin Chin, Asian Transnational Organized
Crime (2007) 9–10.
UNODC, Amphetamines and Ecstasy, 43.
Philippine Center on Transnational Crime, ‘Technical Issues in Regional and
Global Cooperation against Organized Crime’, paper presented at the Asia Pacific
Ministerial Seminar on ‘Building Capacities for Fighting Transnational Organized
Crime’, 20–21 Mar 2000, Bangkok, available at
htm (accessed 21 July 2009).
242 chapter fifteen

property, and also robbery, and kidnappings for ransom, are the crimes
most commonly connected to organised crime groups in the Philip-
pines. The available reports further argue that some criminal organi-
sations are closely connected to separatist and terrorist organisations
in the southern parts of the Philippines.881 This is manifested in the
piracy that occurs in the Southern Philippines. Many of the attacks on
ships in the region are carried out by highly armed and sophisticated
groups that are associated with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or
the Abu Sayyaf group.882
Information about the types and size of criminal organisations is
not always consistent. In 2003, the Philippine Centre on Transnational
Crime noted that criminal organisations have only surfaced recently
in the Philippines and are not as embedded in society in the same way
as they are, for example, in neighbouring Taiwan, Hong Kong, and
mainland China.883 Another paper released by the Centre in the same
year, however, identified ‘83 big time drug syndicates operating in the
country with a membership of approximately 560,000 drug pushers’.
The same report found that transnational crimes in the Philippines
‘are mainly enterprise crimes perpetrated by transnational organised
syndicates that maintain entrepreneurial and opportunistic temporary
In the 2003 report, the Philippine Centre on Transnational Crime
identified the so-called Pentagon Group as one of the largest criminal
organisations in the country. The group is estimated to have about 168
members that frequently engage in kidnappings for ransom and are
closely associated with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front
in Mindanao. The Francisco Group, named after its leader Mr Manuel
Francisco, is a group of 66 armed men that engage in motor vehicle
theft, drug trafficking, and robberies throughout the country. The Lexu
group is another known motor vehicle theft gang in the northern Phil-
ippines, and the Rex ‘Wacky’ Salud group has been associated with

Philippine Center on Transnational Crime, ‘Organized Crime in the Philippines’,
paper presented in Tokyo, 27–90 Jan 2003, available at
htm (accessed 21 July 2009); cf. Savona et al., Organised Crime across the Borders, 24.
Eklöf, Pirates in Paradise: A Modern History of Southeast Asia’s Maritime
Marauders, 35–44.
Philippine Center on Transnational Crime, ‘Organized Crime in the
Philippine Center on Transnational Crime, ‘Technical Issues in Regional and
Global Cooperation against Organized Crime’.