MANILA, March 23, 2004  (STAR) By Marichu Villanueva - Ousted President Joseph Estrada admitted yesterday he did not agree with the decision of his close friend, presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr., to take in Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. as one of his advisers.

Though Estrada was rebuffed by Poe, who has occasionally ignored his advice, he described the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) standard-bearer as "independent-minded" and "his own man."

Estrada called up The STAR yesterday from his detention facility at Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, where he was taken at the end of the 36-hour pass issued to him by the Sandiganbayan to visit his ailing 98-year-old mother, Mary Marcelo-Ejercito, at the San Juan Medical Center.

Estrada guffawed when asked about Guingona joining the growing list of Poe’s advisers.

"Dati ‘I accuse.’ Ngayon ‘I accept,’" he said, laughing.

Estrada had referred to Guingona’s "I Accuse" privilege speech in the Senate that triggered the impeachment trial against him and the subsequent statement made by Guingona accepting Poe’s invitation to become one of his advisers.

"It’s the call of Ronnie Poe. I don’t interfere in the wisdom of his decision," he said. "That goes to show he is his own man and makes his own decision."

Estrada said Poe — better known by his initials FPJ — sought his opinion before deciding to invite Guingona to join his camp.

"I did not agree but he still went ahead," he said.

"Okay na lang sa akin kung makakatulong kay FPJ, basta ‘kako makakatulong para manalo siya (It’s okay by me if it will help FPJ, if it will help him win)," Estrada added.

Estrada, however, noted that Guingona does not have enough supporters to bring in more votes for Poe but may give a "psychological" boost to his campaign.

"That’s why I said he is really independent-minded. That shows nobody can dictate to him, not even me," he said.

Poe’s decision to take Guingona as his adviser is not the first time he disregarded Estrada’s advice. Earlier, Estrada had strongly opposed Poe’s decision to take Sen. Loren Legarda as his vice presidential running mate because of her participation in the impeachment trial that led to his ouster in January 2001.

Estrada had suggested that Poe choose either former senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago or Sen. Gregorio Honasan as his running mate.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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