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1655 Beach Park Boulevard September 7, 2009

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Odds and Ends, Ramblings.
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It was the piece that sparked the nation’s outrage: the article by journalists Ellen Tordesillas, Avigail Olarte, Yvonne Chua, and Luz Rimban that appeared on VERA Files unearthing the US Home acquired by Pampanga Representative (and the President’s Eldest Son) Mikey Arroyo. As the story goes, the house was purchased soon after winning his seat in Congress, does not appear in his Statement of Assets and Liabilities, and was acquired for an amount way in excess of what a Philippine public official can possibly afford based on his salary. To date, the Congressman has been thoroughly unable to offer a reasonable explanation (no surprise there), despite the ongoing scrutiny into the matter by the Philippine media and concerned Filipinos, both overseas and abroad.

By highlighting the relevant issues, posing the right questions and gathering substantial documentary evidence in support of its claims (which are available on their website, together with a picture of the house!), the article is a powerful example of how the Fourth Estate helps rein in the excesses of elected officials. Of course, this was made possible largely because of the abundance of information now readily available through the internet and other channels. This got me thinking: exactly how much information could the average person get about that house, anyway?

Not nearly anything as substantial as those journalists, if my cursory attempts are anything to go by. For instance, I couldn’t find information regarding its ownership or anything of the sort. But given what’s already become public knowledge, I think there’s a surfeit of information readily available for those curious to know more.

For instance, you can find the house on Google Earth by keying in the following coordinates: 37°34’7.21″N, 122°15’18.15″W. Do that, and this is what you’ll find (click to enlarge):

Further, the house can also be seen via Google Street view (click to enlarge):

Now if you wanted to find out about the size of the property, the number of rooms in the house, or its approximate market value, it’s easy enough to look these up on Zillow, a handy website for those in the market for property in the USA. I searched for the address and got the following result (click to enlarge):

According to the site, the five bedroom and three bath house that sits on a 6,336 square foot piece of land was last purchased for about US$1.32 Million, has an estimated monthly amortization of US$5,602 and costs its owners property taxes of approximately US$14,239 annually. Its market value at the time I checked was between US$1.11 Million and US$1.46 Million.

Amazing how much information is available publicly, isn’t it? If anything, this should serve as fair warning to the public (and elected officials in particular): nothing is sacred or secret anymore. The truth must come out eventually, and only the immensely stupid assume that there will never be a reckoning.

Speaking of lacking in intelligence, let me end with the following footage of Rep. Arroyo’s “Media Suicide” (as it has been termed on YouTube; a link to the second half of the interview is embedded somewhere in the video):

It makes me wonder what the hell he was thinking agreeing to a live interview, obviously without a game plan. It’s pure pwnage, especially from about 2:15 onwards where he is completely unable to rebuff the notion that he’s been hiding ownership of the property. In any other mature political system whose leaders still cling to some notion of propriety this alone would be cause for resignation. Yet I doubt we can expect as much in this instance — from him or his ilk.

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