The Things We Carry

As a private investigator who does criminal defense and ends up going to rough parts of town to conduct surveillance, undercover work or field interviews, it’s advisable to have a LTC/CHL (License to Carry/Concealed Handgun License). I carry a Ruger SR9c loaded with Barnes TAC-XPD 9mm Luger +P Hollow Point ammo, and a pocket knife with a glass breaker tip on the handle and seat belt cutter.

I prefer this type of pistol because it’s light overall and has a light trigger pull. The frame is also relatively thinner than a Glock 22 and other similar models, so there’s minimal to no printing when it’s holstered. I prefer to use an IWB (Inside the Waistband) holster for extra concealment, tucked in my jeans usually at the 1 o’clock or 4 o’clock positions.

I also prefer to use hollow points for self-defense and exclusively use full metal jackets for the shooting range. Law enforcement agents will agree with me on this one, because hollow points have more stopping power than a FMJ, especially if you’re shooting a 9mm.

This means I can stop a bad guy with a single shot at center mass (torso) because the expanding bullet will tear up his vital organs pretty badly. A full metal jacket could go through his body, leave a narrow hole through him, and probably won’t kill him or even stop him immediately. In that case you will have to keep firing, which could escalate the situation and the last thing you want is a full-blown shootout. You want to stop your target ASAP and secure the scene until the police arrive.

Additionally, if you’re shooting indoors, a full metal jacket could theoretically go through the bad guy’s body and through the thin walls of a home, and potentially hurt innocent people behind those walls. So hollow points are recommended for self-defense.

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It’s rare that you’ll find yourself in a life-threatening situation on this job, but it never hurts to always be prepared, because life can come at you fast like a bullet.

Micro Notes

Invest in a dependable and durable GPS tracking device. Remember, it’s a federal crime to place one on a car other than your own unless you have the owner’s consent. You would think that it’s dumb for an owner/suspect to consent to that and you’re right, but if you’re a parent and you want to track your druggie son or Cash Me Ousside How Bow Dat-type daughter using the car that you own, it makes total sense. Also, if you want to track your cheating spouse’s movements, you legally have the right to place it underneath the car without their knowledge because it’s shared property.

Be sure to get the waterproof magnetic case to house your unit. The magnet is very strong and can easily be applied underneath the vehicle, usually the bottom of the spare tire compartment near the rear bumper.

When you’re doing a “hard tail” on a subject through the city–the GPS tracker planted underneath their car like a leach–you realize how much of a badass driver you really are. Bonus Points: Track them during the late afternoon traffic jam and try not to lose them to see what you’re made of.

P.S.

Don’t fuck with my fridge. Don’t touch my food.

Micro Notes

1. To apartment security: don’t allow a large gap underneath your gate. Even a sexy stud with enormous muscles like myself (that was sarcasm) was able to slip under the gate as if I was playing Metal Gear Solid in real life.

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2. If you can’t post up long-term to wait for someone to drive away, you can put ketchup packets underneath their tires. Come back later on and see if the packets burst or if they’re still intact. Shout-out to McDonald’s for always giving me extra condiments.

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3. There are new cases waiting to be solved everywhere. One of my favorite channels is the Justice Network. During commercial breaks, they post missing persons and wanted criminals in the local area. It reminds me of Big Shot show in Cowboy Bebop, minus the goofy Western theme and barely-dressed blonde.

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big shot

4. I convinced my boss to give me the serial killer case. This subject is almost a carbon copy of Aileen Wuornos. That stack in the middle of my desk is only 1/5th of the research files on her.

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Close Encounters

Doing sniper surveillance (camping in the back of a surveillance vehicle with a DSLR or camcorder) is the most effective way to get the money shot. You’re supposed to be a ghost. No one should even notice you, much less see you, but I’ve always preferred engaging the subject face-to-face. Come up with a cover story (Jehovah’s Witness, landscaper handing out flyers, asking for directions, etc.) and then talk to the subject with your phone in your shirt pocket recording the whole thing. I want my subject to remember the face that betrays his trust.

Pill Nation

I did an undercover operation on an unlicensed doctor earlier and it was such a piece of cake getting the pills that I wanted.

I actually felt bad for the doctor. He was a young, nice guy, seems smart as heck, who was just helping a poor immigrant community–but I did what I was assigned to do. The law is the law: you cannot practice as a physician if you’re not licensed with the state. But it showed me how easy it is for pill addicts to get prescriptions from these types of clinics. No wonder opioid addiction is on the rise.

TempHQ

Personally, I like to have a “temporary HQ” when I’m getting ready to do street work. It’s a place that you go to for respite, or to develop strategies, or to park your car and do quick research on your phone.

A temporary HQ such as a parking lot allows you to quickly mobilize when your target is on the move.

Private Investigation teaches you to be patient, methodical, and precise with your actions & decisions. It’s similar to chess or hunting.

Prowling across Houston and throughout Southeast Texas, you end up loving and hating your region more.

My Life is Like a Sitcom Where I Get into Different Adventures Every Episode

Today, I did surveillance on a subject, followed her to two different malls, tailed her inside a department store, even pretending to browse the lingerie section “for my grandma,” had time to flirt with the MAC sales ladies, almost busted some shoplifters at the mall because the associates thought I was some badass street cop with lots of tattoos, followed my subject back home, spent two hours at the coffee shop planning my business empire in the Philippines, talked with a friendly country ass dude about bass fishing at Field & Stream, was close to getting a beautiful new pistol, and, last but not least: ate a delicious melted cheese panini. The end.

Update:

When I was leaving the coffee shop, I saw this pinned by the door. I was going to make it a side pro bono investigation. I didn’t care about the reward–I would’ve donated it to the Humane Society if I was awarded–I simply hate seeing people do despicable things to defenseless animals.

The assignment in that part of town is complete and I have a stack of cases to work on, but I wanted to post this to remind pet owners to be more vigilant when taking their dogs outside. You have to treat cats and  dogs as if they’re babies; they depend on you for safety. Also, if you happen to be from the Friendswood area, try to crack this case during your free time and put these sadistic culprits behind bars. Thanks.

Maps – Mindanao

Some of these maps are a bit old, but I doubt much has changed in a lot of these places. I need to familiarize myself with the geography, terrain and cultures (languages/dialects, religions, customs) of the region.

There are so many different individual cases all over the country. It will be damn near impossible to do field research in every one, so I want to focus on major hot spots, which is why I want to spend a lot of time in Mindanao. 

2834-IVAliceReef Topo (PRINT A COPY)

2934-ISimunulIsland Topo (PRINT A COPY)

3138-IIJolo Topo (PRINT A COPY)

3340-IZamboangaCity Topo (PRINT A COPY)

3939-IIBanga Topo (PRINT A COPY)

 

 

I’m going to be hiking and climbing around these mountains and hills, interviewing survivors and possible witnesses. I also want to take photographs of the school where the murders of Lumad leaders took place.

 

claveria

 

The war between the government and the terrorists will only increase the atrocities from both sides, unfortunately. There are too many things going on at once in the country, but I have to concentrate on approaching this methodically. I can’t let current events knock me off course (unless the events are related to my investigation).

The Backpack

For my very first Field Notes post, I think it’s fitting to talk about packing up for my trip to the Philippines. This will be no ordinary vacation because I’ll be roving through all three main islands to conduct an investigative reportage project on corruption, human rights violations, as well as illegal mining, logging and land grabbing.

Due to the nature of my project and the type of terrain I will be traversing, my gear list might look a lot different compared to yours.

Equipment

  • Slim high-quality backpack
  • Smartphone
  • 20000 mAh Power Bank

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  • 12-inch 256GB Macbook (because it’s lighter than my favored VAIO laptop)
  • iPad Pro (easier to handle when taking multimedia notes out on the field)
  • Foreign cash (ATM withdrawals abroad is a pain in the ass due to fees; cash is king. Just be sure that you don’t go over $10,000 USD when going through TSA. Bank of America makes it easy for you to order foreign currency so that you don’t have to deal with exchange fees abroad. Mine shipped from Los Angeles and got it the next day. Be sure to keep the invoice it came with in case authorities question you on where you got the money from because you’ll look like a drug dealer, well-financed terrorist or CIA clandestine operative).

 

Moolah
That’s Philippine Pesos, Singapore Dollars and Russian Rubles. The PHP wins because it looks like Monopoly money.
  • First Aid kit
  • Pens and notepads
  • Nikon D7200 DSLR
  • Zoom H4N PRO Digital Multitrack Recorder
  • Satellite phone

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  • Multitool and pocket knife (check your destination country’s laws on the maximum length you’re legally allowed to carry)
  • Maps and compass (because you can’t depend on GPS that could die on you in the middle of nowhere)
  • Specially encrypted Blackberry Bold with remote swipe (for secured calls and texting highly-sensitive information)
  • Light hiking boots (Adidas makes some great ones. This will allow you to comfortably go through different environments, from trekking down a mountain to dodging police tear gas in an urban riot).

 

Software 

  • Tor Browser
  • VSCO + Lightroom (get the Adobe Cloud package to save a lot of money)
  • Final Cut Pro X
  • TunnelBear VPN
  • WhatsApp + Skype (so you can make international voice and video calls back to the U.S. without charges. The U.S. Embassy in Manila has a Skype ID).

 

Although it seems like a lot, my gear set is actually quite light and is tech-centric. In fact, I might not even use my DSLR and Zoom recorder that much since the new iPhone 7 Plus will have a dual lens camera and has a pretty decent audio recorder app. So I will test it out in the field and see if my mobile solo-journalism methods are good enough to get the job done.

Also, being a dual American-Philippine citizen, I only use and take out my U.S. passport when I’m going to countries that benefit Americans, such as more relaxed tourism visa requirements (or lack thereof). However, I use my Philippine passport when going to countries and territories that are hostile towards Americans.

Well, folks, that’s about it for now. I might update my gear list later on, but that’s pretty much a good peek inside my backpack.

This WordPress blog will be my home for a while since I’ll be posting field notes, features, photo essays, and snippets of my project(s) throughout my stay in Asia. ‘Til next time.