Thursday, November 29, 2012

Greed, need, ignorance and stupidity

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Was it greed, need, ignorance or stupidity?

On the part of the schemers-scammers it was, above all, greed. But on the part of the victims, it could be all or some of the above. It is puzzling—or perhaps not—how 15,000 people or more were gypped into believing that their money, if placed in this “wonder” of an investment scheme, could be doubled in a few weeks.

Oh, but indeed, it was deliberately made to work for a few—they who were the living proofs that would entice even more people to put their lifetime’s savings and borrowed cash into this “magical” scheme that eventually crashed and crushed the greedy, needy, ignorant and stupid (GNIS). But it is shocking that those who knew better did not raise early warnings while the double-your-investment rush was going on so openly.

The clever dupers behind Aman Futures and the Rasuman group were not doing hush-hush business underground or in the back streets of Mindanao. Word of mouth was their best advertising ploy. How could anyone have missed it? The places in Mindanao that were badly hit by the scam were not wanting in financial wizards or straight-thinking people who could have stopped the GNIS from bundling their hard-earned and/or borrowed cash and taking these to the Aman/Rasuman agents who promised them instant wealth and fast and double returns on their investments.

Where were the local government officials (they are among those being investigated now), civil society groups, academics, professionals (lawyers, CPAs) and even church people? If they knew something was wrong, why didn’t they grab megaphones or use the pulpit and speak out? Or were many of them also GNIS?

Call in the parapsychologists. Was this a case of altered states of consciousness (ASC), a kind of budol-budol at work on whole communities? ASC might be it, else why did so many fall for this uncle of all scams? This phenomenon can make it into the Guinness Book of World Records, but what a humiliating record it is for this country which has had several of these scams.

On how their money could grow that big and fast, what were the GNIS victims made to believe? Was their money supposed to be invested in mining explorations, transportation and communications, biotech, drugs, energy, food, real estate, etc.? Even in the so-called “5-6”? Or were they aware it was a pyramiding scheme (and went for it, anyway), which allows those on top to cash in first, while those below wait for their turn to go up the pyramid as the clueless base of investors spreads out?

Of course, a pyramiding scheme will crash—eventually and inexorably—but not before the schemers-scammers have stashed away their loot, changed their identities, acquired new noses, and bought villas, yachts, and paradise islands somewhere. That is, if they didn’t get caught on time.

Is there a law against pyramiding schemes done outright or disguised as direct selling of token merchandise? How about making Charice’s birit hit song “Pyramid” the anthem of antipyramiding?

In yesterday’s news, the investigating panel said: “By their modus, respondents, who are closely related to each other, showed unity of design and purpose in defrauding the public, including herein complainants.”

It is not polite to blame victims or call them names, I always say, but some things have to be said. The victims may be needy, ignorant and/or stupid (okay, gullible), but greed cannot be factored away. They were salivating for so much money, and they were prepared to borrow to meet minimum requirements. There is a chasm of a difference between need and greed, but maybe when one is in a money-induced ASC, the divide is blurred.

I think some financial savvy should be taught in school early on. If good manners and right conduct, patriotism, kawanggawa, living chaste lives and even how not to get pregnant are taught in school, why not some basic financial management? Some things learned in kindergarten survive through adulthood. I know. I was a Girl Scout and I never forgot “Do a good turn daily” and “Be prepared.”

I was at a bookstore the other day, and I saw a good number of how-to books by some best-selling Filipino authors who want to teach people how to save, invest wisely, and make money, not instantly, but slowly, steadily and over a period of time. A noted and trusted one is Francisco Colayco.

Even popular Catholic “preacher in blue jeans” Bo Sanchez has written easy-to-read books on investing wisely, which compete with his other bestsellers. We featured him in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine last October, and to write the feature I listened in at his well-attended “How-to-get-rich” seminar, which was about, not how to quickly get rich, but how to do long-term investing (not trading or gambling), say, five to 10 years, in the stock market. Better than saving in the bank where your money shrinks because of inflation. I have learned the ropes, by the way. Easiest way is online, via the Internet.

Sanchez’s “My Maids Invest in the Stock Market” is a runaway bestseller. He preaches the good news of the easy investment plan (EIP) or investing in publicly-owned, stock-exchange-listed companies and participating in their growth and earnings. His provides regular stock updates, suggestions and Bible-inspired messages.

Sanchez, whose Light of Jesus group holds weekly praise-and-worship “feasts,” stresses that the goal is not to become multimillionaires: “As I teach [people] to build their financial wealth, I also teach them to build their spiritual wealth. They need to grow in their character to handle big money, or it will destroy them. Use your wealth to serve God.”