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June 24, 2017

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Philippines set to arrest three powerful senators over corruption scandal

MANILA -- The Philippines on Saturday said it was preparing to arrest three powerful senators after an anti-graft court indicted them in a massive corruption scandal that has riveted the nation.

The three, who include a son of former president Joseph Estrada and a 90-year political survivor who enforced martial law under dictator Ferdinand Marcos, are accused of channeling millions of dollars of public funds into bogus organizations in return for huge kickbacks.

President Benigno Aquino took office in 2010 vowing to fight the massive corruption that has long weighed down the Southeast Asian archipelago.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, whose investigators prepared the case against the opposition senators, said she was confident they had enough evidence.

"We are confident that there is enough evidence to support conviction and we continue to strengthen the evidence," she told AFP.

The evidence included testimony from whistleblowers involved in the alleged corruption and documents from government agencies showing that funds were siphoned off, she added.

A special anti-graft court, the Sandiganbayan, on Friday indicted senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon "Bong" Revilla and Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada on the non-bailable charge of plunder, or massive graft.

If convicted, the three could face life in prison.

Enrile, 90, has outlasted four previous presidents and was chief enforcer of martial law under Marcos in the 1970s.

Estrada, 51, is the son of former president and movie star Joseph Estrada while Revilla, 47, is a showbiz star as well as the son of another movie star-turned-senator.

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