Tue, Jun 24, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Philippines holds second senator over corruption

Reuters, MANILA

A second Philippine senator, the son of a former president ousted in 2001 on corruption charges, turned himself in to authorities yesterday after an anti-graft court ordered his arrest for the misuse of Philippine congressional funds.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III took office in 2010 on a platform of good governance and fighting graft. He has been trying to shed the country’s image as one of the most corrupt in Asia, removing and sending to prison top politicians and generals.

Philippine Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, the second senator to surrender in a week on plunder charges, said he was innocent of any allegations of wrongdoing.

He appeared at a police detention center, accompanied by his family, including his father Joseph, former president and now Manila mayor.

“It’s not really plunder,” said Jose Estrada, a two-term senator. “I’ll prove to my critics and detractors that I’ll emerge victorious because I have done nothing wrong.”

The case against him was politically motivated, he said.

“We have been humiliated for years. We have been convicted even before the trial begins. I feel so bad,” he said.

Both Jose Estrada and Philippine Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla, who turned himself in last week, are former action movie stars. They are to be held in the same detention facility pending trial.

Jose Estrada faces life imprisonment and forfeiture of any assets he may have illegally acquired if found guilty of pocketing more than 183 million pesos (US$4.17 million) from congressional funds from 2007 to 2010.

Prosecutors, citing government-commissioned reports and witness testimony, said he had diverted congressional funds, known as “pork barrel,” to non-existent non-government organizations for agricultural projects.

The money was then ploughed back to him, government officials and a businesswoman who devised the scheme, prosecutors say.

Aquino abolished such funds last year after the scandal surfaced.

A third opposition senator faces similar charges: Juan Ponce Enrile, 90, a former president of the Philippine Senate and a hero of a 1986 pro-democracy “people power” uprising that swept to power Aquino’s mother, former Philippine president Corazon Aquino. He has asked the court to spare him detention due to his age and poor health.

In 2001, Jose Estrada escaped prosecution on corruption charges, but his populist father was convicted of plunder six years later.

The elder Estrada was pardoned by former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, now in detention and facing similar plunder charges for actions committed during her nine years in office.

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