… or so he claimed.
The conversation started off easily enough, he said the MMDA over at Megamall were staring him down for daring to wait for me to run up to his cab. For some reason, he soon digressed into how earlier that day he had witnessed a man snatch a cellphone from a young woman inside a jeepney. The young woman was of course dumbstruck as the perp made his escape. My host candidly told me that if only he’d had a passenger to watch his cab for him, he would have stepped out of his cab (he was deep in traffic) and given chase himself.
As if to make sure that I believed he would be capable of such a thing, he related how he had once survived a hold-up attempt by three young men, killing one of them in the process. He described the encounter as one that left him wounded and bloody all over.
He also displayed quite a disdain for drug addicts, as he recounted the time some guy asked to be brought to the pier while carrying a bag of _shabu _in the early morning. Our heroic (?) taxi driver made it a point to choose a route that brought him past a police checkpoint, and he used his headlights to signal to the cops that there was something fishy, so they were flagged down for checking. He told the cops that he didn’t care about the taxi fare, just wants to be rid of the guy.
Then there was the time a snatcher was running past his cab, and he opened the driver-side door to smash into the guy. Once the perpetrator was on the ground, he proceeded to kick him down and even broke his wrist. (He gave me a small demo by flopping around his hand.) He said he then left the guy to the barangay tanods, as a gift.
“Regalo ko na sa inyo yan,“ _were his words, he said.
Then we went into the inevitable litany of how soft we were on crime. Apparently he had worked in Saudi for more than 10 years, and he preferred the Saudi method of eye for an eye; when a thief was caught in Suadi Arabia, his hands were cut off. He pshawed away any talk of human rights, saying that if a person was guilty he should just be killed right away. He professed a hatred of criminals and drug addicts and implied that he enjoys any chance to deliver some beatdown on them.
I, of course, was tempted to play devil’s advocate and argue for the side of human rights, but I realized that this was a guy who had confessed to killing someone before! Granted, I’m not robbing him, but I might get at least a poke in the eye for disagreeing with him!
Now me, I’ve never witnessed a single snatching or holding-upping or anything like that on the mean streets of metro manila. This man was giving me insights on how it was to truly live on the streets. And I found myself thinking, at least at that level there are still people who reject the rampant criminality that apparently pervades our streets (however ends-justify-the-means his reasoning may be).
The taxi driver remarked that robbers and snatchers always say something like “I just needed money to buy milk for my baby”, which is a totally BS excuse. Many hundreds, if not thousands of our countrymen struggle everyday trying to make a decent, honest living, and as long as there are people able to walk that road, “I had to do it to survive” is *not* an excuse.
That sort of petty crime on the streets is a vicious cycle, and even if you say that it’s caused by poverty, it also causes poverty by itself… more often than not the victims are just the sort of people who have worked extra hard to be able to save up for something decent. As the taxi driver mentioned, many of the snatched cellphones are probably not even yet fully paid for. It’s a case of poverty feeding upon itself.
We wandered into more discussions about gun control, the situation in America and Saudi Arabia and almost always his solutions came back to some form of harsh and inhumane punishment or perhaps vigilantism. Maybe it’s not a bad idea; imagine how much safer Metro Manila might be if we had some sort of Batman-like character prowling the night and scaring the hell out of would-be criminals?