For those who would exclaim “Divine Lee who?”, she is the socialite daughter of the now infamous Delfin Lee of Globe Asiatique. The issue involving this real estate giant (GA) is close to my heart because a couple of years back, I contemplated on buying a townhouse in their Mabalacat project, the Xevera. I already had several correspondences with their sales agent when I noticed that they were not so keen on cash buyers. I was asking how long after I paid will I be given the clean title to the property, and they could not provide clear-cut answers. I smelled something fishy and dropped the idea – which turned out to be a good decision after all.
Back to Divine, she is one of the most prominent young socialites in Manila’s elite today. She is touted as one of the most powerful young women of the country. She was an executive in her family’s business empire, a celebrity model, entrepreneur and socialite. Despite all these, she painted herself as a socially responsible citizen, often citing her family’s involvement in social and charitable activities. She was held up as a model of the new Filipina – successful, bold, brave, not afraid to flaunt what she has but always mindful of her social responsibilities. At least that is what her PR team had successfully painted her to be.
But all these façade came crumbling down when the Globe Asiatique scam was exposed. The vast financial empire that the Lee family had built for themselves was found to be scammed not just from thousands of clueless home buyers but from the millions of Pag-ibig Fund members (that’s you and me and the rest of our co-workers). GA connived with corrupt Pag-Ibig Fund officers and employees to apply for and approve housing loans from bogus home buyers, then used the money to finance their projects. The projects are then sold to legitimate home buyers who were not aware that the properties they were buying were already mortgaged by another party. As a long-time member of Pag-Ibig Fund, I am aghast at the brazen callousness by which this scam was executed. This is our money, taken from our hard-earned salaries, entrusted to the government so we can have something to tide us over in our retirement years or during difficult times. We have all been victimized here.
Where is she now, together with the Lee family, while hapless home owners are being evicted by AG from the houses they bought with blood, sweat and tears? There are talks that Delfin Lee and the rest of his brood are already in Portugal, probably enjoying the fruits of their “strategic” business track in AG. I read in a celebrity website that she was tweeting from Lisbon, Portugal and yet our government investigators could not determine with finality their whereabouts. The first time the scam was exposed, there were investigations one after the other – but nothing came out of it. Divine Lee continued doing what she does best. That is, being the toast of Manila’s social circles, displaying her collection of high-end and scandalously expensive bags. Marie Antoinette would have been shamed saying “let them eat cakes” while hungry Parisians were rioting outside the palace walls.
Sadly, this is nothing new to us. The Marcoses brought us to the throes of death during their 20-year reign of unbridled kleptocracy, but where are they now? General Garcia was exposed as symptomatic of everything that was wrong with the military establishment, but his wife and kids are still at it and enjoying la dolce vita abroad. A high-ranking government official (whom I will write about in the very near future) likes to paint himself as the president our country badly needs, but has in fact accumulated so much unexplained wealth since he joined government. But of course, the “unexplained wealth” can be easily explained by businessmen and real estate developers who do business in his little kingdom. Whatever happened to owners of banks that closed down and left their depositors deprived of their retirement money? We the taxpayers are left to take on the burden while greedy businessmen and corporations hire top-notch tax lawyers to evade paying not only the right taxes but their rightful share in contributing to nation building.
When I was reading the online article about Divine Lee, there were comments as late as June 2012 where readers were still extolling her as a role model for young Filipinas. What the f**k are we teaching our kids in school that they should no longer be able to distinguish between right or wrong, or between what is moral and what is abominable?
Success through hard work is something that should be held high as a model for every Filipino to emulate. Being rich is not something to be ashamed of. But amidst the grinding poverty, hunger, homelessness and hopelessness, flaunting wealth and needless luxury is a crime against humanity. Especially if the progeny of that wealth comes from millions of poor people whose blood, sweat and tears make it possible for them to tote their Birkins.
This is impunity. When thieves have no more shame and victims no longer raise a howl, then we have lost our soul as a people.
*credits to People’s Politics of Change