Monuments to greed

Fri, 03/21/2003 - 00:00

Pyramids are usually associated with Egypt, but the Philippines has discovered it has them too. The most recently unearthed one cost P25 billion and was built by ten thousand dupes.

They built the monument to greed, egged on by arch priestess Rosario Baladjay, who promised fantastic returns on investments in her company, Multinational Telcom Investors (Multitel).

Baladjay told victims of her pyramid scheme their money would be invested in red-hot Scandinavian telcos. Instead, she pumped the cash into a crash lifestyle upgrade program that included a megalo mansion, buckets of diamonds, a facelift and a liposuction.

Like her liposuctionist, Baladjay lived off the fat of others until her victims noticed they were getting none of the promised payoffs. Last year, when they went to the police, Baladjay went into hiding. She was finally caught two weeks ago and showed she had even more fascinating tales to spin. She claimed her company had been glowingly endorsed by Senators Edgardo Angara and Loren Legarda, and had received money from police officers and a congressman or two.

Red-faced, the senators at first said they had done no such thing, then admitted they might have, because, er, so many people went to their offices asking for endorsements, uh, they didn't have time to think, er, discriminate. Interesting defense: perhaps we could invite the good senators to endorse this website? Anyway it did nothing to refute Baladjay's claim that Senator Legarda was the godmother of her child.

Multitel is apparently only the tip of the iceberg -- or pyramid. Investigators now estimate that up to two million Filipinos have been hoodwinked of at least P100 billion by numerous pyramids.

"We have more pyramids than Egypt," a government official said in wonder.

What's amazing is that Fillipinos, belonging to one of the most "lay-down" economies in the region, still manage to raise so much money to feed to get-rich-quick con artists. Is there no limit to our gullibility? I mean can't we just be responsible citizens and listen to our politicians?

On second thought, forget we said that.

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