BULACAN, Philippines – In a small rural barrio in Angat town in this Central Luzon province, the key suspect in one of the country’s biggest bank scandals grew up. These days the quiet village is in shock, unable to reconcile their image of their kind, generous neighbor with news reports that she had perpetrated an operation that has rocked major lender Metrobank.
According to the National Bureau of Investigation, Metrobank vice president for corporate services Maria Victoria (Marivic) Lopez authorized two bogus loans, misusing the name of food giant Universal Robina Corp. (URC), a regular client of the bank.
The bank has yet to confirm exactly how much it lost, but police say she may have gotten away with as much as P1.75 billion in fraud — or more than the P900 million earlier reported.
The multi-million scandal, that has sent the central bank investigating as well, shocked this quiet town where Lopez owns at least two large properties–a house and a large events space that the bank executive bought and developed.
Relatives and neighbors all attest to Lopez’s generosity, and say she has allowed community members to use her property for free.
“She’s a very simple person, matalino. At siya, pati ang pamilya niya, ay kilala sa lugar namin sa pagiging mabait. Mabubuting tao sila sa samin sa baryo [She and her family are known to our community for being very kind],” said neighbor Edna Fernandez.
Lopez’s cousin Mercedita Sta. Ana Dayata affirms this. “Ang pagkakakilala ko talaga sa kaniya, mabuting tao siya, ganun, mabait siya [I really know her as a good person].”
Lopez is also known for hosting an annual party where she hands out Christmas gifts to the town’s senior citizens.
Barangay official Antonio Cruz Jr. had this to say of his constituent: “Mabait na bata yun [She’s a good person],” he said, adding she is very helpful to “senior citizens like me” and likes to throw parties for them.
“Lalo na kung magpa-pasko nagpapa-party yan at nagkakaroon ng mga kung sino gusto kumanta, magbibigay yan ng gantimpala siyempre… At bago matapos ang party nagbibigay yan ng mga supot; mga sari-sari para sa mga katulad namin na senior citizen [She likes to throw parties especially just before Christmas, where she gives prizes to people who sing. When the parties end she gives out bags of various gifts to senior citizens].”
Police probers said earlier that Lopez has been with Metrobank for 30 years and was just one year shy of retirement.
As vice president for corporate services, she is said to earn P250,000 a month.
Lopez reportedly owns the Menage Premiere Salon, which has five locations in upscale communities around Metro Manila.
Besides the NBI and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) is also investigating.
The NBI has filed charges of theft, violation of banking law and falsification of documents against Lopez, who remains in custody.