Philippines files graft cases against lawmakers
By TERESA CEROJANO
MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- The Philippine Justice Department filed the first major corruption complaints against three powerful senators, former lawmakers and a wealthy businesswoman Monday following a public outcry over the alleged plunder of millions of dollars intended for anti-poverty projects.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the complaints against the lawmakers, including veteran Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, alleged that they conspired with dummy aid organizations to steal $141 million in government funds that should have been used for fertilizers and livelihood projects.
Thirty-eight people were named as respondents, including staffers of the lawmakers. Documentary evidence was so voluminous that justice officials used a truck to haul the papers to the Office of the Ombudsman, or the anti-graft prosecutor, in a convoy of vehicles that was trailed by the media and beamed live on nationwide TV.
The prosecutor will evaluate the evidence before forwarding the case to an anti-graft court, which will decide whether to issue arrest warrants.
The scandal caused such an uproar in the impoverished nation that hundreds of thousands of people turned up at a huge protest in Manila last month.
At the center of it is Janet Lim Napoles, who is accused of acting as a conduit for the money and surrendered to President Benigno Aquino III in August after she was charged with illegal detention of a whistle-blower.
"This is a cleansing process. We will not stand in the way," said Senate President Franklin Drilon.
One of the respondents, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who is a son of an ousted president, told his colleagues Monday that he was innocent. He said that Enrile, at 89 the oldest senator, was taken to a hospital over the weekend for high blood pressure but that he would challenge the charges in court.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)