Helping Dugo-Dugo Gang with the Kasambahay Law

The first time I read the full text of the “Domestic Workers Act” or “Batas Kasambahay” (Republic Act No. 10361; see also primer), the very first provision that immediately caught my attention was the reportorial duty of employers. The law provides that all employers register domestic workers under their employment in the Registry of Domestic Workers in the barangay where the employer’s residence is located (see primer).

This reportorial requirement is obviously intended as an added protection for domestic helpers. There have been reports that many kasambahays are locked inside the house, with no way of communicating or informing their relatives. We’ve heard the news of that former basketball player who detained a kasambahay as payment for broken dishes. There have been reports of abuse or mistreatment against domestic workers, with the local officials clueless as to the presence of domestic workers in their jurisdiction. The central registry will make it easier to track and protect domestic helpers.

While the provision on centralized records with the barangay may add a degree of protection, negligible or otherwise, to domestic workers, it might result to a very dangerous scenario. The central list can be used by incumbent officials to gain an advantage during elections, but the danger we’re talking about relates to the Dugo-Dugo Gang.

First, a description of the dugo-dugo gang’s modus operandi. What is a dugo-dugo gang and how does it operate? It usually involves a call to the househelp, saying that ma’am or sir was involved in an accident, that he/she cannot speak at the moment, and that the househelp should bring whatever money or personal properties. As described in the article entitled “Top 10 Modus Operandi of the Most Common Crimes in Manila (and Other areas in the Philippines)“, posted by the Philippine National Police (PNP), a dugo-dugo gang:

…robs affluent homes by tricking unsuspecting house helpers into helping them get to the homeowners’ cash and valuables stash. Plan of attack: Remember that PLDT caller I.D. commercial? That’s basically how the Dugo-Dugo Gang operates. After casing a household, the gang members wait for the opportune moment when only the helper is in the house. The scammers call and pretend that a family member has been hurt and needs money for a surgery or medical procedure of some sort. Then they pressure the helper into forcing open the family safe, locked drawers, and the like to get cash and other valuables. The helper is then told to turn over the loot to the gang members.

It’s easy to be harsh on the kasambahay. People might come to an unfair conclusion that the crime happened because a kasambahay is gullible. This is not exactly true. We’ve handled a number of these cases and we’ve seen how convincing and effective the modus can be. Victims now include college students and professionals who are expected to be more discerning when it comes to dealing with the modus operandi. Still, imagine the scenario when members of a dugo-dugo gang get their hands on the central barangay registry — a totally possible scenario.

I’m reminded of the previous effort of the government, costing billions of pesos, to have websites for local government units including barangays. The launch was successful. A lot of websites went online. The problem was maintenance. The websites were not updated, a fact painfully exposed during the hacker wars a few months back, targeting government websites. The same problem in maintaining data is also a problem in securing the central kasambahay registry.

The dugo-dugo gang gains access to crucial information, conveniently stored in a single registry, including the names of employers, the address and telephone number, and the full name of the kasambahay. The dugo-dugo operation becomes more convincing and effective. I hope I’m proven wrong.

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