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Monday, 21 May, 2001, 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK
Arroyo's Estrada prison 'deal' criticised
Estrada: Ordered to stop smoking
Philippines President Gloria Arroyo has come under fire for agreeing to build a bungalow to serve as a prison cell for her sickly predecessor, Joseph Estrada.

The former president is currently being held in a military hospital in the capital Manila awaiting trial on charges of corruption.

Mrs Arroyo also said she would not oppose moves to place Mr Estrada under house arrest, a turnaround from her administration's stand that no special treatment be given to the former movie star.

"She will invite an avalanche of protests if she insists in according Estrada special privileges," politician Satur Ocamp warned.

Left-wing lawyers have threatened to go to court to reverse Mrs Arroyo's decision.

This is a thousand mile retreat from the people's no compromise position against the Estradas and their cohorts

Bayan party
Mr Estrada, 64, wants to be placed under house arrest, as a courtesy to a former leader, during his trial next month for economic plunder - a charge punishable by death.

On Monday, his jailors and doctors claimed that he was suffering from chronic bronchitis and arthritic pains in his knees and right shoulder.

They have declared him temporarily unfit to be in a prison cell.

Joseph Estrada
Estrada retains the support of many poor Filipinos
Since 11 May, he has been detained at the military's Veterans Memorial Hospital, despite a court order to move him back to a special prison.

Analysts said inconclusive election results had forced Mrs Arroyo into making conciliatory gestures towards her predecessor, whom she visited on Saturday.

But she continued to take a hardline stand against allies of Mr Estrada accused of taking part in a failed power grab.

Her spokesman said on Monday that state prosecutors were compiling evidence on several key figures allegedly behind the 1 May siege of the presidential palace.

Stop smoking

The police force, meanwhile, is arguing that the detained leader be kept in a military hospital during his trial.

It says the trial itself should be held in a gymnasium at the hospital compound due to security concerns.

Gloria Arroyo
Arroyo: Looking to bolster her position
This would avoid Mr Estrada being shuttled back and forth for trial hearings.

The former movie actor is scheduled to be formally arraigned on a separate charge of perjury on 31 May.

According to the hospital's medical certificate, Mr Estrada has "chronic obstructive pulmonary disease secondary to chronic bronchitis and emphysema with probable bacterial infection".

Doctors said that he tired easily and was suffering from shortness of breath and coughing.

They said they had ordered Estrada, a heavy smoker, to lay off cigarettes.

Election violence

Ballot boxes
It will be weeks before all votes are tallied
Vote-counting, meanwhile, has been continuing amid more violence, with three people killed and seven injured in the latest incident on Sunday in the Lanao region of the southern Philippines.

A rocket-propelled grenade allegedly fired by supporters of a losing candidate for mayor hit the city hall in the town Marawi, where election workers inside were counting votes.

Two soldiers were killed and three others wounded in the blast, according to regional army spokesman Colonel Fredesvindo Covarrubias.

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See also:

16 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada case put off amid riot fears
15 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Arroyo edges ahead
14 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippine poll leaves 83 dead
13 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Fresh violence hits Philippines election
12 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines' opposed personalities
02 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines president widens crackdown
25 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Jailed Estrada defiant
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