Prison cell a supreme sacrifice, says Estrada

MANILA, Reuters

No television, telephone or cellphone — the cell of former Philippine President Joseph Estrada in a Manila police camp may be cozy and safe, but the former movie star will be shut off from the rest of the world.

The Philippines’ anti-graft court on Wednesday ordered Estrada’s arrest on a corruption charge punishable by death as hundreds of supporters massed outside the deposed leader’s Manila mansion to prevent his arrest.

Riot police charged and dispersed the crowd in the afternoon, took Estrada into custody and transported him by van to a nearby police camp where he was fingerprinted and taken to his cell.

Interior Secretary Jose Lina told reporters Estrada’s cell is 3.5 meters by 5.5 meters (12 feet by 18 feet) with a well ventilated ceiling and two small windows.

“I would like to ensure the people that the former president will be safe and secure in the detention center. First, there’s round-the-clock security. It looks cozy and spartan,” he said.

“There’s a working table and a bed. No television, no phone, no cellphones allowed.”

Estrada told the British Broadcasting Corp that police were being hospitable and kind to him, though his cell did not compare with the presidential palace and the large house he formerly lived in.

“Well, just an ordinary empty room with a bed, well, it’s air-conditioned though,” he described it in a telephone interview from the detention center. “So…good enough. I … I can bear with it.”

Asked how he would cope with being in such a small room for what could prove to be a long time, Estrada said, “Well, I have to make that supreme sacrifice only for defending our people and our constitution.”