Philippines Lawmaker Hid Drug in Underpants

Philippines congressman Ronald Singson admitted Monday he had attempted to smuggle cocaine into Hong Kong by hiding the drug in his underpants to elude airport security.

The colorful 42-year-old, who is from one of the Philippines' most high-profile political families, admitted to bringing 6.67 grams of cocaine and two tablets of the narcotic Nitrazepam into the city on July 11, 2010.

He was arrested at Hong Kong's international airport by customs officers who found a small amount of cocaine and pills in his luggage, with six grams of cocaine hidden in his underpants.

The total value of the cocaine was about $2,000.

The politician, also a music promoter whose business interests include the music station Channel V in the Philippines, admitted to trafficking and faces a maximum life sentence and a possible fine of up to HK$5 million ($640,000).

But he denied any plan to re-sell the drugs and pleaded for leniency.

"(They) were solely for his own consumption. He had no intention of engaging in commercial or social trafficking," Singson's lawyer John Reading told Judge Joseph Yau.

Singson said he had the drugs because of "political pressures", "pressure of faltering businesses" and relationship problems, adding that he was suffering from depression.

"Even though I was successful in my own right, I didn't feel happy," he said.

He testified that he snorted cocaine daily, consuming between four and five grams a day, costing him as much as 25,000 Philippine pesos ($570), in several month-long binges starting in 2004.

"Whenever I took (cocaine), I took large amounts, frequently every day," he told the court.

"I apologize to the people of Hong Kong. This was a very big mistake and in the process, I have ruined my name and reputation, embarrassing my family and causing pain to my girlfriend."

Singson added: "I've never been more remorseful in my life. This is just the beginning of my problems. Not knowing my fate back home has caused me a great deal of pain."

"I ask you to find it in your heart to... sentence me with leniency. There's nothing more I want than to go on with my life," he added.

"You are convicted on your own plea and admission of the facts," Hong Kong Judge Yau told Singson in a packed courtroom.

Last week, the original trial judge stood down from the case after receiving a letter he said contained "prejudicial allegations" against the lawmaker, and ordered the letter to be kept sealed.

Singson juggles jobs promoting US rhythm and blues acts in the Philippines with holding a parliamentary seat.

He won a second three-year term in the House of Representatives in May, in the seat long held by his family in the Northern Province of Ilocos Sur.

The legislator is one of seven children by an estranged wife of Ilocos Sur governor and political kingpin Luis "Chavit" Singson, one of the most controversial political figures in the Philippines.

The 69-year-old patriarch was in Hong Kong in August to attend his son's bail hearing, and denied claims his son was a drug dealer. "It's a set-up," he told reporters at the time.

The sentencing hearing was set to continue Tuesday.

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