Member of the Sikh community involved in the money-lending business in Manila are bracing for a crackdown from Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte.
Action against money-lenders charging extortionary interest rates was one of Duerte’s poll promises. The money-lenders from Punjab, many of whom have been in that country for generations, are known locally as “five-sixers”, for the high 20 per cent interest they charge.
Community leaders are now conducting meetings in local gurdwaras to ponder their next move, members of the community told The Indian Express over the phone from Manila.
Duterte was reported by local media as having warned during his campaign that he would act against “loan sharks”. He is also quoted as having said that those charging high rates of interest would face deportation.
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“I want to talk to the ambassador of India… I am sure he would only be glad to help… I will really tell them they should follow or else I will deport you, all of you. You should watch out the moment I start my presidency,” Duterte was quoted as saying by a local English newspaper.Hardeep Manila, a money lender who has lived in the Philippines capital since 1997, said a clean-up of the money lending business was one of his main promises.
The Punjabi community in the Philippines is officially about 50,000 but many more are suspected to have entered the country illegally.
The Punjab government has been trying to dissuade youth in the state from going to the Philippines and taking up “micro finance”, as the trade is described euphemistically, but unsuccessfully so far.
The government’s concern grew after killings of several young men from the state who were involved in money-lending.
The NRI Commission in the state took suo motu cognisance of the killings of Punjabi men. The commission is awaiting the action taken report from both Punjab and Central governments. Justice (retd) Rakesh Kumar Garg, chairperson of the commission, had told The Indian Express recently that their involvement in the money-lending trade might have made members of the Punjabi community targets.
In the past six months alone, there have been over 20 killings of Punjabi men in the Philippines. All were financiers.
Sushma Swaraj’s office told The Indian Express to contact MEA spokesperson. Vikas Swarup did not get back to a query sent to him by WhatsApp.