2nd Philippine senator charged with plunder surrenders
MANILA: A Philippine senator who is the son of an ex-president surrendered to police Monday after a court ordered his arrest on corruption charges. Jinggoy Estrada was the second celebrity politician in days to end up in jail on charges of plundering the poor Southeast Asian nation’s coffers.
Estrada is one of three senators indicted this month on charges of receiving huge kickbacks from government development and anti-poverty funds. He arrived at police headquarters accompanied by his family and supporters after the Sandiganbayan special anti-graft court issued a warrant for his arrest.
Trailed by a mob of journalists, photographers and TV cameramen, Estrada first went to the house of his father, former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada. His young daughter wiped away tears, hugging her father as they left their upscale suburban Quezon City home.
Estrada denied any wrongdoing and expressed confidence that he would be acquitted. He filed a motion for bail, saying evidence against him was weak and his surrender showed he has no intention of escaping.
Plunder is a capital offense in the Philippines, bailable only if there is no strong evidence against the accused.
“This is the last day of my freedom,” he told reporters before surrendering. “I will fight for this case to my last breath.”
Jinggoy Estrada, a former movie actor, was charged with plunder along with his father, Joseph Estrada, in 2001, but was released on bail after two years in detention and acquitted in 2007. His father, a hugely popular action movie actor, was convicted of plunder but was pardoned and won last year’s mayoral election in the Philippine capital. The senior Estrada was president from 1998 to 2001.
Senator Estrada has been accused of receiving 183 million pesos ($4.2 million) in kickbacks in an alleged scam involving the diversion of millions of dollars from anti-poverty and development funds allotted to lawmakers for their pet projects.
“The issuance of this warrant is a step forward in finding out the truth, which is fundamental in strengthening the trust of our people in our institutions and processes,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said. He said anyone who has misused state funds will be brought to court, even allies of the administration.
Corruption has plagued the nation of 97 million for decades, fostered by a culture of impunity for powerful politicians and their allies, weak law enforcement and a slow justice system.
Since President Benigno Aquino III was elected in 2010 on a reformist pledge, his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, has been detained on vote-rigging charges and the Supreme Court chief justice impeached for the first time for not disclosing $2.4 million in his bank accounts.
Another lawmaker, Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., surrendered Friday after the anti-graft court issued an arrest warrant. He is accused of receiving 224 million pesos ($5.1 million) in kickbacks.
A third senator, Juan Ponce Enrile, has also been charged with economic plunder for allegedly receiving 172 million pesos ($3.94 million) in kickbacks, but an arrest warrant has not been issued yet for the 90-year-old former senate president.
Enrile, a wealthy businessman, was defense minister when dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in the Philippines in 1972. He was implicated in several coup attempts against Aquino’s mother, the late President Corazon Aquino.