Probe in Philippines – Unprecedented Senate hearing

In an unprecedented move, the wife and son of Philippine President Joseph Estrada faced questions from a Senate panel about their alleged diversion of state funds to their pet charities, Reuters reports.

First Lady Luisa (Loi) Estrada and her son, Jinggoy, mayor of the Manijla suburb of San Juan, both denied any wrongdoing during the three hour hearing.

No congressional body had never before called members of a presidential family to testify.

Estrado told a radio interviewer there was nothing irregular in the allocation of $6.45 million for charity projects managed by his wife.

And he defended the release of more than 200 state ambulances to his son’s custody for distribution to poor cities and towns.

But Sister Christine Tan, a Roman Catholic nun and former official of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, said diverting the funds from that office to projects of presidential family members deprived others of much-needed assistance, Reuters says.

There were no allegations that Mrs. Estrada or her son benefited personally from the funds.

The allegations surfaced in the face of a stock market price-fixing scandal allegedly involving a businessman and friend of Estrada, whose popularity has dropped sharply in recently months, Reuters says.

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