Celebrity senator gets not guilty plea in Manila

MANILA, Philippines (AP) One of three high-profile Philippine senators accused of plunder has refused to enter a plea during arraignment by an anti-graft court in the biggest corruption trial in the country in more than a decade.

The court instead entered a not guilty plea Thursday for Senator Ramon Revilla Jr., a popular actor accused of receiving 224 million pesos ($5.1 million) in kickbacks from a scam that allegedly diverted millions of dollars from anti-poverty and development funds allotted to lawmakers' pet projects.

The prosecutions bolster a campaign by President Benigno Aquino III to fight the corruption that has plagued the nation of 97 million for decades. The problem has festered amid a culture of impunity among powerful politicians and their allies, weak law enforcement and a notoriously slow justice system.