My Encounter With
Three Glib-Tongued “Cons”
by Apolinario Villalobos
First Encounter/February 2013:
Last year, when I took an aircon van from my hometown, I sat beside a woman who kept on checking her bag and in the process, sort of intentionally, brought out several identification cards, some were of standard size similar to those issued by companies, the rest were big, twice the size of the standard ones. My eyes caught a big one with the prominent “Royal House of Sulu”. I got curious so I asked her about it. She gave it to me for scrutiny. Indeed, the ID carried the “Royal House of Sulu” and under her photo was the title, “Official and Legal Representative”. I was looking for the name of any member of the Sulu royal family, but there was none. But her Christian name, “Juliet de la Cuesta” also had a “Bai”, indicating a royal title. The “Bai” can be used only for a Muslim name. I checked for the “Atty.” before her name, but there was none. The signatures were above the Christian names, too. So I asked her the reason for such curious combinations. She said it was okey and then showed me another ID with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), but without logo. I was looking for any familiar name of MILF leaders but there was none. The signature on the ID was for the name of a “general”. The woman’s name in this ID was a Muslim one, “Fatima Mausallah”, but without a “Bai”. She brought out another ID for a “Universal Brotherhood of the World”, with an address in Marawi City, bearing her Muslim name.
I was bursting with suspicion and excitement, but I controlled myself in carrying a conversation with her. Occasionally, she was looking at the old PAL tag ID attached to my backpack and asked me about it, and if I was connected with PAL. I replied in the negative, explaining that I borrowed the bag from my cousin who was a retired PAL employee. When she realized that I was not connected with PAL, she admitted her intention to ask my help for a discounted ticket, while hastily grabbing her “IDs” from my hands. I decided to play her game, so I asked for her number so that I could call her if I could convince my cousin to ask for a discounted ticket. She gave me three numbers: Landline (Davao), Smart and Globe. I gave her my expired Sun number and an assumed name. She told me that she was planning to take a flight to Manila, and then to Malaysia, purportedly, to meet with an official in that country regarding the Sabah issue. I did not tell her that I was taking a taxi at a junction in Matina as soon as we have arrived in Davao City, for a shorter route to the airport, as I was catching up a flight for Manila.
When we arrived in Matina, she was surprised when I got off the junction. I told her hastily that I would call her. At the airport, I used a landline to call the woman’s landline number. Somebody answered but I was told that she did not know the woman. To satisfy my curiosity, two days after I reached home, I called the Smart number which the woman gave me. She answered and told me that she was at Sasa, Davao City. It told her that I was using the cellphone of my cousin which was with an unlimited call load. I addressed her as “Bai” to maintain her trust. She said that she will be in Manila in a week’s time, and we arranged for a meeting – at Quiapo Islamic Center. She gave me the address which I traced immediately on that same day. I found the address to be that of a small eatery. The owner, when told the Muslim name of the woman, said she knew her and that she was always in the company of three guys, and pointed to a guy, who was having coffee that time in one of the tables, as one of them. I told her not to introduce me to the guy and I left. My suspicion about the woman’s true identity was confirmed when I finally met with her in the eatery with two other guys. The three told me many things about their organization, the “Universal Brotherhood of the World”, even mentioning Nur Misuari and the “natural wealth” of Mindanao. They invited me to join them in recruiting members for their organization, adding that the recruits should be businessmen who were ready to make “investments”, and for every recruit, I will be entitled to a five thousand pesos “thank you fee”, and they will also issue an ID for me after I have recruited 10 members. I almost fell off my chair! As I was already feeling uncomfortable, I told them that I would like to leave them to visit a friend, a prospective “investor”. After the incident, I forgot all about the woman and the meeting at Quiapo. I did not bother anymore, to ask the woman about her trip to Malaysia.
Second Encounter/June 2013
Near our neighborhood is a squatters’ area where some of my “kumpares” live. I did not know that they were bragging to their friends about having a “kumpare” from Mindanao. One time, while I was talking to one of them on my way to the jeepney stop, a woman, obviously a Muslim as shown by her attire, approached us. After I was introduced to her, she asked my “kumpare”, “siya ba?” (is he the one?), to which my “kumpare” nodded. When she left, my “kumpare” apologetically told me regarding his bragging about me. I told him not to do it again. When I asked him who the woman really was, he said that according to her, she was a member of MNLF. Because of that impression, she was given due respect by her neighbors. I was told that she and her live-in partner were renting a small shack. I checked the place and it was pointed to me by one of my “kumpares”.
From then on, I took time in spending a few minutes waiting for the woman at the jeepney stop, and was lucky one morning when I saw her with her live-in partner waiting for a ride. I confronted her, telling her outright that I did not like what she was doing. I asked her for an MNLF ID but she failed to show one. I asked for her intention in telling lies to their neighbors in the squatters’ area but she just kept quiet. I noticed that her companion was getting nervous and he told me that they used to live in Dasmariῆas, Cavite. I warned them that if they would not leave the place immediately, I would expose them to my friends. I gave them until the following day to leave the place which they did. When I went back to the squatters’ area in the afternoon of the following day, the shack has been vacated, but two neighbors told me that the woman was able to “extort” protection money from them and an owner of a “sari-sari” store told me that the woman had an accrued accountability amounting to almost four thousand pesos.
Third Encounter/21 July2014:
On 21 July, I took my place behind a woman in a queue of passengers at the illegal Zapote/Kalinisan (Bacoor, Cavite) terminal of aircon vans for Makati. The woman was jittery as no van has arrived for almost an hour. She was trying to start a conversation with me by saying that she would be late for her appointment. I suggested that she take a taxi. I made her feel that I was not interested to talk to anybody because I was irritated, myself. She mentioned about missing a meeting with somebody from the DBM. That’s it! When I heard the acronym, I asked her if it was the Department of Budget and Management, and when she said yes, I became interested. I thought of it as a good blog material. She said, she was in the area to meet with the city engineer of Bacoor, but missed him. She mentioned the right name. She mentioned about the projects and locations that she was supposed to check as they were about flood control of Bacoor. She again said the magic words. When I asked her if she knew the Revillas, she said, yes of course! When she mentioned other things about the city, I finally invited her for a cup of coffee inside the Jollibee which was just a few feet away. I told her that I was interested in what she was doing and I might be able to help her. When she consented, I asked her about her urgent meeting with somebody from DBM, and she told me that she would just reset the appointment.
Inside the Jollibee, while waiting for our order, I had the presence of mind to give her an assumed name. In my mind at that moment, was my previous encounter with a con woman on my way to Davao City, last year. She brought out a list of “contacts” in different government agencies, even the staff of the President. She was obviously, trying to impress me. She also brought out a Xerox copy of a SARO for the dredging of different clogged waterways of Bacoor. She also brought out photos of government officials, pointing to “herself” in the photos, but I noticed only similarity of her face with those of other women in the photos. In one photo, I pointed to a woman which she said was herself, and when I asked her when the photo was taken she said “several weeks” ago. I used my spectacles in discreetly scrutinizing the photo and found the glaring differences between the young twentyish face in the glossy print in my hand and that of the fortyish mature face of the woman in front of me.
She finally dropped the bomb when she bragged about her IDs that she brought out of her bag, one of which was the same as the one shown to me by the con woman of my first encounter on my way to Davao City last year, the one about the “Universal Brotherhood of the World”. I was almost floored! When the food I ordered for her arrived, she attacked it without mercy while rattling names, such as her being related to the “Alvarez” of Palawan, so I asked her if she was related to the “Alvarez” brothers being hunted, she readily denied any connection. Her one ID had the name, “Yolanda Alvarez”. She had another with the name, “Yolanda G. Estandian”, but told me that she uses the latter for her Malacaῆan transactions. I recalled the first name that she gave me was, “Yolly Gabenete”. She even told me that she was a confidential agent of the NBI!
Perhaps the yummy Jollibee breakfast platter made her commit so many slips of the tongue that she even mentioned about the “commission” every time she was successful in her follow up for the release of budgets for local government projects. She showed me the list that showed percentages varying from 3% to 7%, depending on the government agency. I suspected her to be a lobbyist and a con woman! My suspicion got confirmed when she asked me if I knew of any local government official who has a pending project! I asked her in return, if she knew Janet Napoles, and she said yes, but I doubted it.
I told “Yolly” that I knew some guys connected with local government offices. I asked for her number which she readily gave, though I was doubtful if they were real ones. When she asked me to write my name in her “notebook”, I jotted down an assumed name and a jumbled cellphone number. After she finished her platter of breakfast, I wished her luck and accompanied her back to the line of passengers and bid her goodbye, telling her that I changed my schedule that morning, so I am no longer taking an aircon van to Makati. I promised to call her.
I took a jeepney for Baclaran, and while it was negotiating a left turn through a heavy traffic towards Talaba (Bacoor), I saw two aircon vans arrive at their illegal terminal at Jollibee. I saw Yolly, take the second van. I planned to get off at Coastal Mall in Baclaran for a bus ride to Makati.
After paying my fare to the jeepney driver, I sat back and contemplated on the same question that nags me every time I encounter conning incidents, such as, how some people can have the heart to exploit others…a question that may never get a satisfactory answer.