Politics

Please Do Not Leave Your Valuables Unattended in The House of Representatives

A Salisi Gang modus, executed in the hallowed halls of Congress.
IMAGE House of Representatives CCTV via Rowena Salvacion
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You'd expect it to happen in a dark and fetid eskinita in Quiapo, or at a nondescript computer shop in any other part of the city, but perhaps not in the House of Representatives. Earlier today, Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin filed a theft complaint against former congressman and current DOLE undersecretary Jing Paras, alleging that Paras stole his phone at a congressional hearing last March. It was an iPhone X, which was—as Villarin bothered to point out—worth P74,000.

According to Villarin's formal complaint and affidavit, Paras approached him at the hearing and said, "Kayo pala ni Senator [Risa] Hontiveros ang magkasama." Here, we imagine the undersecretary taking a sinister "Hail Hydra" whispering tone.

Villarin says that Paras then "engaged him in small talk," before snatching the phone. "[Undersecretary Paras] placed his cell phone on top of [my] cellular phone, [...], which was then lying on top of [my] table." Then Paras supposedly made off with both phones, and headed to the Zulueta Hall in the same building. By the time Villarin discovered that his phone was missing, he asked his staff to ring it, and it was answered by a member of the Legislative Security Bureau who had supposedly found it in the Zulueta Hall. Villarin then requested to review the CCTV footage, perhaps hoping to expose a member of the Salisi Gang.

According to GMA News, Undersecretary Paras has denied stealing the phone, telling reporters, "Bakit ko naman nanakawin yung cellphone niya? [Isasangkalan] ko yung buong reputation ko at buhay para manakaw lang yung cellphone niya?" But he also seemed open to the possibility that he might have accidentally taken it. "Hindi ko alam na nadala ko yung cellphone niya. I have moved to another room. So probably I have left it there pagkatapos nung nagsalita ako doon. Nung paalis na ako, hindi ko alam na nadala ko pala yun, tapos pagkaalis ko, naiwan ko siguro doon [sa Zulueta Hall]."

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Meanwhile, GMA has also reported that Villarin believes Paras could have been trying to obtain information by snatching the phone. Previously, Paras filed several charges against Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros, including a wire-tapping complaint in September 2017 that involved a very high-res photo of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre's cellphone. (The photo could be zoomed in enough to see that Aguirre was texting "Cong Jing," plotting with him to build a case against Hontiveros).

More recently (by which we mean just now, a few hours after the whole theft debacle), Senator Sonny Trillanes has had to deny threatening Paras, saying "Huwag ka ngang umarte dyan.”

It's all been a very bizarre moment—even for Filipino politics—so naturally, Filipino Twitter responds in humor:

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