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Thursday, 14 June, 2001, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Estrada 'at risk in prison'
Estrada denies the charges against him
Philippines President Gloria Arroyo is against a court order to move deposed predecessor Joseph Estrada to prison because he could die there, a presidential spokesman has said.

What happens if there is a medical emergency in the evening for instance?

President's spokesman
He was speaking a day after doctors said Mr Estrada was well enough to leave the military hospital in Manila where he has received a month's treatment for bronchitis and emphysema.

An anti-graft court has ordered his transfer to a specially built prison outside Manila ahead of his corruption trial on 27 June.

President Gloria Arroyo
President Arroyo: Worried about Estrada's health
But a spokesman for Mrs Arroyo said such a move could be "putting Mr Estrada's life in danger."

Rigoberto Tiglao said: "One point that (national police chief Leandro Mendoza) has been raising is, what happens if there is a medical emergency in the evening for instance, when we don't have enough helicopters to fly in the evening."

Mr Estrada, a former film star, was toppled in a popular revolt on 20 January and arrested three months later. He is accused of abusing his powers to amass a personal fortune of millions of dollars.

Joseph Estrada
Doctors say Mr Estrada is well enough to go back to prison
He is also facing a charge of economic plunder, punishable by death.

Mr Estrada strongly denies any wrongdoing, saying the charges are politically motivated.

His hospital ward is equipped with cable television, where he has been closely following the US National Basketball Association finals.

Mrs Arroyo would prefer that the 64-year-old former president stay in hospital, subject to the recommendation of the police chief, "because it's a matter of security," Mr Tiglao said on Thursday.

But he stressed the government would "follow to the letter the rule of the Sandiganbayan" court. He said the government had 10 days to comply with the court order.

'Healing of the wounds'

The government was also considering whether to let Mr Estrada attend the first regular session of Congress on 23 July, when President Arroyo would be delivering her first state of the nation address.

"We're still evaluating that," Mr Tiglao said. "Of course, all Filipino citizens should hear her (speech) but the problem is where."

Meanwhile, the government has said it may drop rebellion charges against Estrada allies Senator Juan Ponce Enrile and former ambassador to the United States Ernesto Maceda.

Justice Secretary Hernando Perez said he would meet senior state prosecutors to get their views on withdrawing the charges in the spirit of "reconciliation and healing of the wounds."

Both men were jailed last month, but subsequently granted provisional freedom, over charges that they instigated a march on the presidential palace in May by about 50,000 Estrada supporters.

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