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Cellphone Snatching, Booming Business in the Philippines

Mobile Phones getting lost and people sending e-mails and posting in social networking sites like friendster, myspace and others about their new number after they have lost them. The number of people loosing mobile phones when outside their homes and even when inside supermarkets, computer shops, jeepney and bus are increasing by the day. The courage of people like these to just grab your phone out of nowhere or stick a knife beside you when you are riding a public utility vehicle was admirable and sheer irritating and a sight of worsening poverty and lack of respect to others.

Just last month, September 24 on my way to a meeting at the Department of Budget and Management inside a public utility jeepney a man sit beside me, pay his fare and then pulled out a knife and asked that I gave him my phone. Well fearing my life and due to the shock during the situation I just gave my phone and let it be. But that was a sorry sight and a first time experience for me.

The market for snatched mobile phone is huge hence they even have a name tag. When you but a mobile phone from the black market it is said to be bough from SM or simply "Sa Magnanakaw" meaning "from the robber". SM is a popular department store in the Philippines but the thing is they are not really bought from that store. Would you not get the bait when a phone on sale at a regular price of P15,000 will only be sold to you for P4,000 or P5,000. Isn't that a good offer and who know's if it is a snatch mobile phone?

Luckily the Senate is giving priority to a measure that aims to curb the alarming number of incidents of cellular phone theft. I hope these really solves the issue because we already have so many laws and the problem is most of the time even the law enforcers are part of the cellular phone snatching multi-level marketing.

Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. said the bill that seeks to impose heavy penalties on cellphone thieves is among the 14 priority bills agreed upon by senators.

“The sudden boom of the mobile phone industry opens up a new permutation of criminal activity which led not only to loss of properties but of lives as well. The countless victims of cellphone theft signal the need to come up with legal and regulatory measures to effectively address this problem,” Villar said.

He noted that based on police records, cellphone theft already accounts for over one-third of robbery cases nationwide. Moreover, cellphone crimes are not simple cases of theft and robbery anymore since in increasing number of cases, the victims were hurt or even killed in the process.

He cited statistics from the National Telecommunications Commission showing that from 2002 to 2005, almost 70,000 cell phones were reported lost or stolen.

“We expect the figures to go up as we know a huge number of cellphone thefts go unreported. Stolen or lost cellphones of prepaid subscribers, which composed 90 percent of cell phone users, are also excluded here,” he said.

Under Senate Bill 1618 filed by Villar, any person guilty of cellphone theft shall suffer the penalty of eight to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of not less than P20,000. Where death results from the theft, the bill proposes to impose the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine not less than P50,000.