Philippine actor-senator finds detention cell too hot
MANILA: A Philippine actor-politician, one of three senators ordered by the courts to be placed under arrest and detention over a massive corruption scandal, has a new discovery: life in jail is no picnic.
In an apparent PR move, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. turned himself in to the Philippine National Police on Friday to pre-empt authorities from serving an arrest warrant issued by the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court, which could be embarrassing.
Proclaiming his own innocence of the plunder charge, the 47-year-old Revilla first attended a mass with his family before turning himself up in full media coverage.
“I will go to jail with my head held high, and I will come out with my head held high,” he told reporters.
On Saturday, however, he complained about a difficult first night at the police Custodial Center, describing his detention cell as “too hot” and had cockroaches and rats.
Many netizens quickly pounced on Revilla’s alleged histrionics and some were unforgiving.
“I hope you will rot in jail! Plunderer is who you are!” one using the name Ordep1 commented on a news report of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“Now you got a taste of the food of the underprivileged citizens whom you have deprived of their future,” chimed in Lester2.
Revilla is one of three senators to have so far been indicted for their alleged roles in a scam in which lawmakers are accused of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars allotted for development projects through the congressional pork barrel fund.
The two others are Juan Ponce Enrile, a veteran politician who had served for about two decades as defense minister and as lawmaker since 1987, and Jinggoy Estrada, also an actor who is the son of another actor-politician who was ousted as president in 2001 by a “people-power” uprising amid corruption charges.
Revilla is accused of receiving 224 million pesos ($5.1 million) in kickbacks from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allegedly through fake nongovernment organizations owned by the alleged scam mastermind, Janet Napoles. Estrada and Enrile are accused of pocketing a little lesser amount than that of Revilla.
Fifty-one others are also charged in the massive corruption scandal, including alleged mastermind Napoles, who had been under detention in a kidnapping case filed by one of the whistleblowers in the pork barrel scam. Somc of those charged are government functionaries and aides of the senators and officials of non-government organisations used as conduits in the scam.
The charges of plunder carry maximum penalties of life in jail under the Philippine Plunder Act. It would likely take years to complete, however, if the cases ever get to that stage.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has described the legal action against the three senators and their co-conspirators as a “milestone” in a democratic system tainted by brazen corruption by politicians.
“In the beginning it was next to impossible and highly improbable that our elected officials would be issued [a] warrant and arrested before the Sandiganbayan,” De Lima told reporters after Revilla’s surrender.
Despite President Benigno Aquino’s resolve to crackdown on graft and corruption, a major reason for deep poverty in the Southeast Asian nation of 100 million people, his critics are saying he had been soft on allies who faced similar graft allegations.
De Lima, however, said the investigation against others involved in the massive scam is continuing. She said the cases against the three senators were prioritized partly because of the magnitude of their offense.