Philippine anti-graft court orders prominent senator’s arrest in high-profile corruption trial

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MANILA, Philippines – A Philippine senator and dictatorship-era defence chief was ordered arrested Friday on a charge of large-scale corruption, the most prominent of three top politicians to fall in a government anti-graft crackdown.

The anti-graft court indicted Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and ordered his arrest for allegedly receiving huge kickbacks from a scam that diverted millions of dollars from anti-poverty and development funds allotted to lawmakers.

The legislator left his mansion in a swank residential enclave in the capital, Manila, and was apparently headed to surrender himself to police to face the charges.

Enrile, 90, was the defence minister when late dictator Ferdinand Marcos placed the country under martial rule in 1972, the beginning of a 14-year dictatorship characterized by widespread human rights violations and corruption.

Enrile later broke off from Marcos in 1986 and helped lead a “people power” revolt that ousted the dictator, his family and allies. In the tumultuous post-dictatorship era, he was linked to several military rebellions against late President Corazon Aquino, mother of the current president, but continued to serve in government and later was elected to the Senate.

Enrile is the third senator to be prosecuted in the case that bolsters President Benigno Aquino III’s promise to fight corruption that has plagued the nation of 97 million for decades.

A prominent lawyer himself and a wealthy industrialist, Enrile has denied the accusation that he pocketed 172 million pesos ($3.94 million) in kickbacks and enlisted a top-notch lawyer to defend him.

It was not immediately clear where Enrile would be detained. Aquino and other officials have hinted that he may be treated with leniency because of his age and frail health.

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Associated Press writer Jim Gomez contributed to this report.

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