Philippine senator turns himself in over massive graft scandal

Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla, a popular movie actor here, is accused of channelling millions of dollars of public funds into bogus organisations in return for huge kickbacks. -- PHOTO: PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla, a popular movie actor here, is accused of channelling millions of dollars of public funds into bogus organisations in return for huge kickbacks. -- PHOTO: PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

MANILA - A senator linked to a massive corruption scandal that has riveted the Philippines turned himself in on Friday, hours after an anti-graft court issued a warrant for his arrest.

Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla, a popular movie actor here, is accused of channelling millions of dollars of public funds into bogus organisations in return for huge kickbacks.

Revilla faces one count of plunder and 16 counts of graft.

Two other senators are awaiting their arrests. One is Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada, son of former president and now Manila mayor Joseph Estrada, and the other is Juan Ponce-Enrile, a 90-year-old political survivor who enforced martial law under dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The three men allegedly funnelled - with the help of their aides and businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, 50 - millions of dollars from their official "pork barrel" funds to fake non-government organisations that then gave them huge kickbacks.

Revilla, 47, allegedly pocketed 242 million pesos (S$7.7 million) in kickbacks - the biggest among the three senators.

Estrada, 51, is accused of pocketing 183.7 million pesos. His father was convicted of plunder in 2007 but was pardoned later that same year by his successor Gloria Arroyo.

Enrile, 90, received alleged kickbacks totalling up to 172.8 million pesos. He has outlasted four previous presidents and was chief enforcer of martial law under Mr Marcos in the 1970s.

If convicted, the three could face life in prison.

rdancel@sph.com.sg