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Friday, Jun 20, 2014

Asia

Philippine senator arrested over huge corruption scam

AFP | Friday, Jun 20, 2014

MANILA - A Philippine senator who rose to fame as an action movie hero was arrested on Friday, becoming the first politician detained over a massive corruption scandal allegedly involving dozens of lawmakers.

Ramon "Bong" Revilla surrendered following an emotional saga that played out for weeks on national television and highlighted some of the most chaotic elements of the Philippines' helter-skelter brand of democracy.

"I will go to jail with my head held high, and I will come out with my head held high," Revilla, 47, told reporters shortly after attending a mass with his family, his final made-for-TV showpiece before giving himself up.

Revilla then travelled in a luxury sedan, speaking constantly to television news anchors on the phone, to an anti-graft court for his official surrender on a charge of plunder.

Revilla is one of three senators to have so far been indicted for their alleged roles in a scam in which lawmakers are accused of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars allotted for development projects.

An enduring feature of the Philippines' tumultuous democracy has been brazen corruption by politicians, a major reason for deep poverty in the Southeast Asian nation of 100 million people.

But the magnitude and number of politicians involved in the so-called "pork barrel" scam has shocked even the most graft-weary Filipino, triggering a giant anti-corruption rally in Manila last year.

The Supreme Court also reacted by outlawing the "pork barrel" funding mechanism that was allegedly misused, in which lawmakers were given funds with little oversight to spend on development projects of their choice.

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