Estrada’s cell: Purpose-built 2-bedroom house

MANILA, Reuters

A newly built two-bedroom bungalow inside a military training facility near Manila awaits disgraced former president Joseph Estrada arrested on a charge of economic plunder, punishable by death or life imprisonment.

“It’s not the mansion view that you would expect,” Rigoberto Tiglao, spokesman of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo told a television interview.

“It’s a comfortable facility, which doesn’t lessen at all the dignity of (the) former president even if he is charged.”

Estrada’s proposed two-bedroom “cell” has all the amenities of a middle-class house in the Philippines, based on television footages and reporters who toured the site.

It has two airconditioning units, electric fans, dining and lounge furniture, two television sets, VCD player, a dining area, a kitchen with a gas range and an oven toaster.

The unit has its own water tank and two bathrooms. The bedrooms were already furnished with beds and fresh sheets while the dining area have new sets of silverware and plates.

But the house’s main black steel gate is padlocked from the outside and the windows have no curtains.

Asked why Estrada would get special treatment while in detention, police chief Leandro Mendoza told reporters: “We should consider that he is an ex-president and he should maintain his dignity.”

Estrada, detained at the Philippine police headquarters in the capital since Wednesday on a charge of economic plunder punishable by death or life imprisonment, was taken on Saturday to a nearby hospital for a full medical checkup before a planned transfer to his new detention house.

Earlier, reporters were told that Estrada would probably spend the night in hospital while his medical checks were carried out.

Police said they planned to transfer Estrada to the detention house ringed by three steel fences at the Special Action Forces camp in Santa Rosa, Laguna province, about 18 kilometers (11 miles) south of Manila.

The former movie star, who is adored by the masses, has denied that he plundered the economy while in power.