MANILA, March 31, 2004 (STAR) By Delon Porcalla - Ousted President Joseph Estrada has offered for lease to the government at P1 a year his 15-hectare rest house in Tanay, Rizal if the Sandiganbayan would allow him to be detained there.

In a letter to the Sandiganbayan’s special division trying his plunder case, the 66-year-old Estrada said the villa, just across Camp Capinpin where he is detained, can also serve as a "bond" to ensure that he does not escape and evade the court’s jurisdiction.

"(I) am amenable to a P1-peso-a-year lease agreement with the government," he said. "The property may (also) be forfeited in favor of the government should I escape from confinement,"

Earlier, Noel Malaya, one of Estrada’s court-appointed lawyers, said his client is willing to have his rest house placed under the Sandiganbayan’s supervision if he would be moved there from his place of detention at Camp Capinpin.

However, Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa Ignacio and his deputy, Robert Kallos, opposed Estrada’s proposal as "virtual house arrest," which is not allowed detainees under the law.

Villa Ignacio and Kallos said Estrada should instead be returned to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City.

Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Minita Chico-Nazario told Malaya and Estrada’s other court-appointed lawyer, retired Sandiganbayan presiding justice Manuel Pamaran, that the anti-graft court’s jurisdiction would be "unduly expanded" if it takes control of Estrada’s rest house.

On the other hand, President Arroyo said she has been advocating humane treatment for Estrada since her first State of the Nation Address in 2001.

"I said it as a promise in my State of the Nation Address in 2001," she said during a recent interview with STAR publisher and chairman Max Soliven in the television program "Impact 2004."

"Sabi ko, alang-alang sa napakaraming tinatanaw ang situwasyon ni Estrada bilang larawan ng kanilang sariling pagka-api," the President said.

Mrs. Arroyo said she has always maintained that Estrada be accorded humane treatment since she visited him at his detention bungalow in Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

"Habang gumugulong and katarungan, nararapat lamang na iyong kanyang personal na kalagayan ang maging makatao," she said.

The special division has yet to resolve Estrada’s request that he be moved to his rest house and be allowed to undergo a weekly physical therapy, as well visit his 98-year-old ailing mother at the San Juan Medical Center.

With Nazario as chairwoman, the special division also includes Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Guzman and Edilberto Sandoval.

Meanwhile, independent senatorial candidate Heherson Alvarez said yesterday Estrada should not blame politics for his being named "one of the most corrupt world leaders" by Transparency International.

"Massive offenses of this magnitude committed by Mr. Estrada cannot be covered up by making that they are political issues," he said in a statement.

"Instead of hitting back at Transparency International, Mr. Estrada should help the nation understand how this (plunder) was committed and how this can be prevented. We want a conviction, not just to punish Mr. Estrada, but to clarify history."

Alvarez said if Estrada would like to help the country, he should give the people a "clear picture" of what happened during his administration so they could draw lessons from it.

"Only after this, should he be treated with leniency befitting a former head of state," he said. "Only his candor can help us prevent a recurrence of the abuses he committed."

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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