MANILA — A Philippine senator, the son of an ex-president, surrendered to police Monday after a court ordered his arrest on corruption charges, the second celebrity politician in days to end up in jail allegedly for plundering this poor Southeast Asian nation’s coffers.
Jinggoy Estrada was one of three senators indicted earlier this month on charges of receiving huge kickbacks from government development and anti-poverty funds. He arrived at the main police headquarters accompanied by his family, parents 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 teary-eyed father as they left their upscale suburban Quezon City home.
Estrada denied any wrongdoing and expressed confidence that he will be acquitted, and his lawyer, Alexis Abastillas, said she will ask the court to grant the senator bail, which is normally not given in such cases.
“This is the last day of my freedom,” he told reporters before surrendering. “I will fight for this case to my last breath.”
Estrada, a former movie actor, was charged with plunder along with his father in 2001, but was acquitted. 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, Manila. The senior Estrada was president from 1998 to 2001.
Sen. 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.
Corruption has plagued this poor Southeast Asian nation of 97 million for decades, fostered by a culture of impunity by 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 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, Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. surrendered Friday after the anti-graft court issued an arrest warrant. Revilla 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 and martial-law era defence secretary.
Enrile, a wealthy businessman, was defence 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.
Associated Press writer Jim Gomez contributed.