Manila, Philippines – It’s like a story out of Hollywood. Like “The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button” starring Brad Pitt. Only more serious. And more complicated.
The cast of characters: Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, former president of the Philippines and currently a member of the House of Representatives, accused of plunder and election fraud; and Janet Lim-Napoles, businesswoman, accused of masterminding the pork barrel scam that siphoned 10 Billion pesos of taxpayer money into fake nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the pockets of politicians. Both had petitioned for bail and both were denied.
Arroyo is under hospital arrest in a government hospital in Manila while Napoles is detained in a high-security bungalow in Santa Rosa, Laguna, just south of Manila.
Jealousy ensues. Arroyo complains that she has been denied furlough for her birthday to be at her home in Pampanga while Napoles is living with special treatment in a bungalow. Napoles envies Arroyo because the latter is in a hospital. Napoles’s previous request to be in a hospital has been denied.
Enter Miriam Defensor-Santiago, feisty member of the Philippine Senate. She demands that Napoles be billed 150,000 pesos per month as reimbursement of taxpayer money being spent for her bungalow arrest and double security measures.
Enter the lawyers for Arroyo who demand that the government pay not only for her stay and food at the hospital but also all of her medical and treatment expenses.
Finally, enter Senator Vicente ‘Tito’ Sotto who proposes that both women become roommates at the bungalow in Santa Rosa. “Equal treatment for equal evil deeds,” Sotto says.
And who’s footing the bill? Sotto says that both crimes the women are charged with involve misuse and, presumably hoarding of stacks and stacks of money. Arroyo and Napoles should have no problem paying for their detention, even if it means for life.
Stay tuned for the next chapter of this curious case indeed.