Arroyo defends leniency for Estrada

President Arroyo on Friday defended the government's perceived leniency towards deposed predecessor Joseph Estrada, who was temporarily moved to the private Asian Hospital from military detention.

Arroyo said the government was "exercising utmost compassion and respect for the dignity of the former president," who has been on trial for corruption for more than two years.

Estrada, in the past week, has been allowed to leave Veterans Memorial Medical Center where he has been confined since 2001. He visited his ailing mother at his suburban Manila mansion and for four days stayed at Asian hospital, where he was treated for severe arthritis.

His doctors have recommended that he travel to the United States for further treatment and surgery, and Arroyo said she would support the move if a special anti-graft court hearing Estrada's case allows him to go.

"The Sandiganbayan has exclusive jurisdiction over this matter and we shall carry out its decisions without hesitation," Arroyo said in a written statement.

"I am for national unity and reconciliation under the rule of law," Arroyo said, while denying claims Estrada was being given favorable treatment for political considerations ahead of the May presidential election, which she has said she will contest.

Estrada remains a popular figure among the majority poor, and is still the de-facto opposition leader two years after he was ousted by a military-backed popular revolt that installed Arroyo in his place.

There are "absolutely no political deals involved, the supremacy of justice is unsullied," President Arroyo said. "This is simply a matter of humane consideration."
abs-cbnNEWS.com monitor

31/10/2003

Bron : ABS-CBN

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