Philippines Arrests Opposition Senator Over Pork Fund Scandal

Philippine authorities arrested an opposition senator after finding probable cause for his indictment in a 10 billion-peso ($228 million) scandal over discretionary funds given to lawmakers for development projects.

Senator Bong Revilla turned himself in to the anti-graft court known as Sandiganbayan shortly after a warrant for his arrest was issued. Two other opposition senators, Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada, have also been indicated and barred from leaving the country.

Revilla was arrested for plunder, a non-bailable offense that involves pocketing at least 50 million pesos of public funds. There’s nothing in the case to show he has amassed ill-gotten wealth, the 47-year old actor-turned-lawmaker said in his petition for bail submitted to the court today. Revilla said his participation in the disbursement of his so-called Priority Development Assistance Fund was limited to identifying projects.

Civic groups took to the streets last week to seek the removal of politicians embroiled in the so-called pork-barrel scam, which threatens to tarnish President Benigno Aquino’s anti-corruption credentials. Prosecutors have accused businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles of operating the kickback scheme for at least 120 sitting and former lawmakers, including some of Aquino’s allies. A warrant for her arrest on plunder charges was issued today, and she is already in jail for a separate criminal case.

Revilla, whose father was another actor-turned-senator, is said to have pocketed at least 224.5 million pesos of his discretionary budget meant for development projects, according to a copy of the charge sheet.

Enrile, 90, a former Senate president who was active in the 1986 overthrow of President Ferdinand Marcos, whom he once served, is accused of pocketing at least 172.8 million pesos of his budget, according to a copy of the charge sheet. Estrada, 51, the son of former president Joseph Estrada, is accused of stealing at least 183.8 million pesos. Both have denied any wrongdoing and neither has been arrested.

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