In the ongoing saga of Janet Lim-Napoles, the first to be dubbed “Imeldific” was in fact not Napoles but her daughter Jeane. While the stories that have come out speak of bags of cold cash stashed in the bathtubs, closets and rooms of Napoles’ unit at Discovery Center, those enormous amounts of money found their immediate, most outrageous embodiment in the daughter’s Instagram chronicles of her glitzy shopping sprees, her champagne-addled rides aboard her Porsche, her all-stops-out birthday party in Hollywood. “Mom, sissy and I wiped out the Celine store,” she crowed at one time, referring to the international fashion house whose luxury bags alone are worth some $2,000-$5,000 a pop.
Then again, those price tags are peanuts when we’re talking of some P10 billion in funds, or about $224 million, that Napoles’ operation allegedly siphoned off government coffers for over a decade. To be clear, not all that money went to her. A big chunk had to be kicked back to congressmen and senators who clandestinely subscribed to her enterprise of gaming the pork barrel system by funneling the money to nonexistent NGOs, or ones controlled by the politicians themselves and thus easier to loot.
Millions of pesos more went to grease the hands of certain bureaucrats and underlings in various government agencies tasked with releasing the money or keeping track of its use. It was a vast operation; how it could have gone undetected for so long raises the most vexing questions about the culpability of personages up and down the political pecking order—including, it now appears, many prominent members of the country’s ruling class—and, more to the point, the government’s competence to hold the people’s money and spend it on their behalf.
Of course, spending money not one’s own is quite easy, as Imelda Marcos showed in her heyday. Using the national treasury as one’s personal ATM account—especially when so many demands a cut—is a license to ditch the less-is-more mantra and go for broke, the tackier, the better. If the whistle-blowers are to be believed, it wasn’t just the Napoles daughter who loved the high life. The mother did, too—indulging herself in milk baths, for instance, or so said the housemaid that she had sent to jail for allegedly stealing some of her pricey lingerie.
More, she is said to own some 50 properties here and abroad, and not just 28, as was first alleged. Apart from her listed addresses in exclusive Dasmariñas Village and Forbes Park in Makati, she has properties scattered across the country—in the cities of Makati, Muntinlupa, Taguig, Pasig, and Antipolo in Metro Manila, and Kidapawan in North Cotabato, and in the provinces of Laguna, Cavite, Batangas, Bulacan, and Davao. Also in the list provided by the whistle-blowers are five apartments in Primea on Ayala Avenue, each costing from P65 million to P72 million; Discovery Center units 2501, 2504 and 2506, at P18 million each; seven apartments in Dakota in Malate, Manila, estimated to be worth P40 million; two apartments in Empire Eastland in Makati worth P11 million; a unit in Eton Residences, also in Makati, worth P20 million; two properties in Beaufort Filinvest in Bonifacio Global City, worth P36 million; two properties in Mayamot Village in Antipolo, acquired from a Stanly Sy for P77 million; seven lots in the Armed Forces of the Philippines Officers Village in Taguig; a 106-square-meter apartment in Serendra in Bonifacio Global City, and another in Eastwood City worth P2.2 million.
Dizzy? The family is also said to own 30 cars even if it has only five members and one, Jeane, is not even in Manila but in Los Angeles, living in one of the swankiest high-rise addresses in the city.
How to account for this astounding, outrageous embarrassment of extravagance? Perhaps this: Because literally no sweat was expended to earn the wherewithal to acquire it. Taxpayers paid their due every month, apparently only for the likes of Napoles and her scoundrel partners in government to do what they wanted with the money. That, more than the gluttony on display, is what’s truly Imeldific about this abuse of the public purse. If the real McCoy appears to have given the law the slip, they should not get away this time.