For 45,000 Euros, a Fabulous Watch for a Fabulous Filipino in the "Euro Generals Scandal"

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I laughed away my incredulity when Tyrone Ng Arejola, 35, a rich friend of retired Philippine National Police (PNP) comptroller Gen. Eliseo de la Paz testified in the senate hearing on the “Euro General Scandal.” Arejola explained that of the 105,000 euros (6.9 million pesos) confiscated by Russian authorities from Gen. de la Paz last month, 45,000 euros was his. The high-flying wealthy Filipino businessman with unusual liking for gem time pieces said the money was his payment for a watch worth P2.9 million to be bought in Europe— something Filipinos (myself included) find incredible.

I’m bewildered by Arejola’s exquisite interest for jewelry watches. As a long-time resident in America, it’s the first time I hear of such fabulous chronometers like “Roger Dubuis Bi Retro” or an “IWC Portuguese Chronowatch,” the time pieces Arejola loves.

I live close to the jewelry district of New York and I have often walked passed jewelry watches on glass displays. In the last 20 years, I never owned a wristwatch or dream of owning one. But I understand its necessiy—not the costly time pieces which one needs to cover with an insurance or guard against theft with dear life. For checking time, I only rely on my simple cell phone which works just as well.

My ignorance about luxury time pieces is magnified knowing I learn about them from kababayans in Manila who’re at the center of a hideous money-laundering scandal. Life can really be paradoxical sometimes, says my doctor-friend-colleague who learned about Arejola who lives in affluence within a society beset with grinding poverty.

Arejola, an avowed “born-again Christian” like de la Paz, can possibly afford such expensive European watches whose names twist my tongue. Yet, I wonder why he asked the PNP officer to illegally carry his money in a foreign travel to pay for them. It’s the 21st century. Why can’t he use modernity’s regular perks like a money transfer, a credit card, or a bank remittance?

(Noveau?) rich Filipinos like Arejola make me forget the country is poor. At that price of 45,000 euros, the watch is surely tops at the end of the price scale. Who can fault humility and hubris coming together? It’s the same thought that may have crossed Sen. Manuel Roxas’ mind when he directed his quizzical comment to Arejola in the senate meeting:

So 45,000 euros…Parang ang bigat suotin po nyan eh. Parang bahay na po yan. Yung akin Timex ah, $30. Personal na pera niyo yan kaya wala akong masabi (That would be quite heavy to wear. That’s like a house. My watch is a Timex, worth $30. In any case, that’s your personal money so I cannot say much),” Inquirer, (11/15/08, Kwok, A)

A question to ask Gen. de la Paz: “How can you, a law officer put your integrity in line and that of the country by agreeing to be a courier of Arejola’s money?”

In accordance to the law, every traveler has to declare money beyond $10,000 dollars, why didn’t de la Paz do it as he passed the customs? Even Filipino maids traveling for the first time in the airport know this rule by heart.

If Arejola is telling the truth, he should be decidedly affluent, but nonetheless awkwardly dirt cheap and stupid to put Gen. de la Paz and the country in hot water. He admitted that Enviroair, one of his companies, get juicy contracts from the PNP.

From here, I can only ask the reader to think and make your own theories and conclusions. I think investigators have uncovered some raunchy details of this scandal rocking the military, but they aren’t focusing on the right questions hard enough—the what, how, where and when of the 105,000 euros in the PNP officer’s possession.

It’s not so important that the Russian customs authorities have “absolved” him through some dubious diplomatic channels. The PNP officer has yet to explain, among others, why he has that huge money brought in the Interpol conference in St. Petersburg with his wife. He has to explain the illegal huge amount of money he carried abroad against conventions of international travel.

The “zarzuelas” and inanities of corrupt citizens go on in the Philippines. The people can only sigh in angst and anger thinking how many more rapacious scandals they have to endure in their lifetime. In Manila, one hears the poor street protesters yelling,“Tama na! Sobra Na!” while the PNP officers with their guns look on. =0=

PNP Gen. Eliseo de la Paz

Photo Credit: ABSNews; AP; Bullit Marquez

RELATED BLOG: “Euro Generals” from Moscow and the “zarzuela” that awaits them in Manila Posted by mesiamd at 10/21/2008

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