US senator facing corruption charges wanted to 'hide out' in PH

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Mar 28 2014 03:50 PM | Updated as of Mar 28 2014 11:50 PM

REDWOOD CITY, California – California Senator Leland Yee reportedly told an undercover FBI agent that he was unhappy with his life and that he "wants to be a free agent" and "hide out in the Philippines".

These statements from Yee were cited in indictment documents released following the veteran lawmaker’s arrest from his San Francisco home on Wednesday.

Yee was arrested on corruption charges and was released from jail the same day. He refused to respond to questions from the media as he left the federal courthouse.

A federal complaint against Yee accuses him of soliciting illegal campaign donations in exchange for political favors and conspiring to smuggle weapons from countries like the Philippines.

Yee's lawyer said the senator plans to plead not guilty to six charges of public corruption and one count of conspiring to sell guns without a license.

Yee, who withdrew from the California Secretary of State race, reportedly sought to raise money for his campaign by promising to help undercover agents get illegal guns from various arms dealers in the Philippines.

Authorities said his first Filipino arms broker, who remains anonymous, even distributed guns to rebel groups in the Philippines.

In an affidavit, Yee was quoted as saying that he visited Mindanao two years ago, upon the invitation of Mindanao officials. He added that he was surrounded by people who had high-powered guns.

Yee also reportedly tapped a contact, a Filipino from Daly City named Dr. Wilson Lim, who he cited as having associates in the Philippines who were "trying to overthrow the current government".

The indictment said Lim's nephew was the contact for the weapons deal and that a captain in the Philippine military was to provide the weapons.

The weapons would be shipped to Manila or to the Port of Cagayan de Oro, and then shipped again to various countries.

The same year Yee was reportedly trying to broker the arms deal to the undercover agent, now identified as Emmanuel V. Pascua, Yee actually sponsored a pair of gun control bills in California.

If found guilty, Yee could face up to 20 years for each count of corruption against him and could be forced to pay up to half a million dollars in fines.

Yee is also reportedly refusing to resign his seat, despite some calls for him to do so by other lawmakers. Yee has not formally requested for a leave of absence either.

In the last 12 years of his career in state politics, Yee has fought for equal benefits for Filipino World War II veterans, as well as better working conditions for San Francisco hotel workers, many of whom are Filipinos.