23 June 2014

Philippine senator, who shot to fame after he acted as a hero in an action movie, was arrested on Friday on corruption charges involving dozens of lawmakers. Senator Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla and two other senators were indicted on corruption charges involving embezzlement of hundreds of millions of dollars allotted for development projects. The scam involved several senior level bureaucrats and lawmakers. Indications are that these collaborators would be brought to face justice in the coming months.

Some observers believe that this scandal is typical of what is going on in the chaotic form of democracy where brazen corruption by politicians is the norm.

The Senator arrived in a luxury sedan to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center.

According to his wife, Lani Mercado, also a lawmaker representing Bacoor in the province of Cavite, and actress, the first meal he had at the detention centre was fried mackerel and a form of green bean paste soup. She had brought some Mercado biscuits and bread for him. He had asked his wife to bring him his favorite dishes “Kare-kare, sinampalukang manok and Japanese food.”

Revilla is reputed to be a talented actor who had performed in more than 72 moveies such as Beloy Montemayor, Dugong Buhay and Captain Barbell.

On the day of Revilla’s surrender, lawyer, Attorney Joel Bodegon has filed a motion for bail. The petition will be heard by the Sandiganbayan’s First Division on June 26. It would appear that Revilla will have to spend some days in the high security prison.

Along with Revilla two other senators were indicted of the “pork barrel” scam. The “pork barrel” funding mechanisms a scheme in which lawmakers were given funds with little oversight to spend on development projects of their choice. Since then the Supreme Court has outlawed the “pork barrel” scheme. President Benigno Aquino, who was elected on an anti-graft platform, has taken advantage of these events to show that these probes were an integral part of his efforts to stamp out corruption.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told AFP that these indictments were a milestone in the history of the Philippines as people thought that it would be impossible to prosecute the influential political personalities.

Aquino’s critics claimed that he was directing his efforts on his opponents. The three senators indicted are members of the opposition. But it is a fact that some of the President’s key allies have also been indicted.

One of the senators indicted of “pork barrel” scam is Juan Ponce Enrile, a 90-year-old politician famous for his cunning. He was defence minister during Ferdinand Marcos’s martial law regime three decades ago.

The other senator involved in the scam is Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, the son of former president Joseph Estrada who was toppled in popular uprising triggered by his plundering of government coffers.

Revilla’s father, former senator Ramon Revilla Sr. survived a stroke just recently. He was also an action hero and was one of showbiz’s undying ‘macho’ s.It is roumered that he had fathered more than 100 children. Once, when a newspaper reporter posed the question, he simply asnwered: “I don’t have many children… and it’s far less than a hundred.”

The “pork barrel” scam came to light when businesswoman Janet Napoles was accused of conspiring with lawmakers to misappropriate an estimated 10 billion pesos ($230 million) in “pork barrel” funds.

In a failed effort to turn state witness, Napoles gave prosecutors a list implicating more than 100 lawmakers. Two of those in the list are Aquino cabinet members who deny any wrongdoing.

Aquino had also succeeded in charging his predecessor, Gloria Arroyo  of corruption and vote-rigging. She has been detained, mostly in a military hospital, since 2012 while waiting for her trial.