Estrada visits Arroyo in VMMC

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

MANILA Mayor Joseph Estrada spent an hour on Sunday with political nemesis former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the spirit of Christmas.

Estrada arrived at the Veteran's Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City around 3 p.m. accompanied by daughter Jackie Ejercito-Lopez and Ferdinand Topacio, legal counsel of former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.

"After all the disasters happening around the country, this Christmas is about compassion. So I decided to also extend some compassion to GMA (Arroyo). I felt pity for her," the mayor said, who was also detained for three years at the VMMC from 2001 on plunder charges.

Estrada said Arroyo congratulated him on being the head of the country's capital city while he informed the Pampanga congresswoman of his support to her request to be allowed to spend Christmas with her family.

Arroyo got her wish days before their meeting as the Sandiganbayan allowed her immediate relatives to celebrate Christmas and New Year's Day at the VMMC, where she is detained on plunder charges stemming from the alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds.

"I believe in justice but I also believe in compassion," said Estrada, adding Arroyo looked pale and has lost weight due to her degenerative bone disease.

The Manila mayor was ousted as president on January 20, 2001 through a civilian military-backed uprising that counted Arroyo, then vice president, as one of the chief planners.

Arroyo sent Estrada to jail for plunder and other corruption cases. In 2004, Estrada's best friend, the late movie icon Fernando Poe Jr., challenged Arroyo for the presidency but lost in a fraud-marred election.

Estrada was vocal against the previous regime, saying the country's image both here and abroad had been tainted because of various corruption scandals involving Arroyo, her family and close associates.

He was convicted by the Sandiganbayan in September 2007. Weeks later, Arroyo released him from detention on humanitarian reasons.

The pardon was seen by political observers as Arroyo's way of courting support from the popular Estrada camp amid calls for her to step down due to her involvement in the anomalous national broadband network deal with Chinese firm ZTE Corp.

Arroyo was rated as the most unpopular leader since the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Public disgust over her rule also catapulted another critic, then Senator Benigno Aquino III, to the presidency in 2010. (Sunnex)

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