Philippine senator pleads not guilty to graft

June 27, 2014 - 12:00:00 am

MANILA: A popular Philippine action movie hero-turned senator pleaded not guilty to plunder yesterday in a case seen as landmark test of the government’s ability to tackle entrenched corruption.

Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla, known for possessing amulets to defeat enemies in film, stood quietly with about 20 co-accused during the arraignment hearing. “Not guilty” one of the three judges said when they did not hear him enter a plea. The opposition senator faces life imprisonment if found guilty of pocketing 224m pesos ($5.11m) from 2007 to 2010 from congressional funds. He is being held at a police camp.

The trial is central to President Benigno Aquino’s effort to shed the country’s image as one of the most corrupt in Asia. The court set Revilla’s first hearing for July 10.

Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, son of former president and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, will be arraigned next week, while Juan Ponce Enrile, 90-year-old former senate president and hero of People Power revolt against the dictatorship in 1986, is appealing to avoid detention due to his age and poor health. 

Park retains Chung as Premier 

SEOUL: After two failed attempts to appoint a new prime minister, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye announced yesterday her “agonised” decision to retain the incumbent who resigned over April’s ferry disaster.

Chung Hong-Won resigned 10 days after the Sewol passenger ferry sank on April 16 with the loss of 300 lives.

Park accepted his resignation, but Chung was asked to remain in the job until a successor was found, a task that turned into an embarrassing debacle for Park.

Her first nominee, a retired justice, was forced to withdraw because of criticism over the large income he earned in private practice after leaving the bench. The second, former journalist Moon Chang-Keuk, withdrew on Tuesday over comments he made suggesting Japan’s repressive colonial rule on the Korean peninsula was “Deity’s will.”