By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau
August 26, 2013
LOS ANGELES – It’s the home to some of LA’s rich and famous, but to Filipinos, the Ritz Carlton stands tall as a symbol of the Philippine pork barrel scam.
On Sunday afternoon, some demonstrators got an early start at the home of Jeane Napoles, the daughter of Janet Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Records show that the Napoles family own four properties in southern California, including a unit in the Ritz Carlton.
“This is where you see, there goes the corruption. What is the corruption buying? It’s buying a $2 million suite up there in the
Ritz Carlton when there are people there underwater right now because of the flooding in Manila,” said Kuesella Hilo of Bayan.
Sources inside the Ritz have told Balitang America that while the younger Napoles has not been spotted recently, her relative who works for her was removing bags full of her items from the unit last Friday.
Filipinos are calling on the Philippine government to abolish the pork barrel system which is supposed to allocate money for projects.
Janet Napoles, as well as several lawmakers, are believed to have been taking the funds and putting them into bogus organizations.
Protestors say because the pork barrel has the potential for corruption, it also drains out the Philippine economy.
In the past, Philippine officials have used alleged ill-gotten wealth outside of the country, sucking billions of pesos out of the Philippine economy.
“You can really see the contradiction here of how people are living in poverty in the Philippines, where the wealthiest 1% are lavishing in these luxurious hotels and that really I think is directly at the expense of people like our families back home,” said Eric Tandoc of Anakbayan.
More Filipinos, joined by members of the Aquino family, comedian-turned-activist Bernardo Bernardo and members of the Philippine Consulate, held a vigil outside of the Los Angeles Philippine Consulate Sunday night also calling on lawmakers to end the pork barrel programs which can lead to corruption.
“Ang maglinis ng pork barrel dapat mag simula sa kanya,” said Art Garcia of the US Action Against Pork Barrel.
Filipinos also used the vigil to pray that those involved in the P10-billion scam are brought to justice.
The consulate said they are relaying the Filipinos’ concerns to authorities in the Philippines.
While the Napoles clan has become a central figure in this controversy, Filipinos say it doesn’t matter who the masterminds, scapegoats, and major players of the alleged misuse of pork barrel are. They just want to see a vulnerable system fixed and an end to the corruption once and for all.
You may reach Steve Angeles at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.