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Arroyo rejects Estrada plea to leave the Philippines.

MANILA, Feb. 13 Kyodo

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Tuesday bluntly turned down a request from ousted President Joseph Estrada to seek eye treatment in the United States.

Although she has repeatedly said now is the time ''to heal and to build,'' Arroyo stressed at a news conference ''justice must reign supreme.''

She said Estrada was ousted from the presidency because of charges filed at the impeachment court of bribery, corruption, betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the constitution.

''These are serious charges...no one is above the law. (Estrada) must face the accusers in court,'' Arroyo said. ''He must personally answer the charges. He must face the consequences of his actions here and not in some distant shore.''

She added: ''The law must always prevail everywhere. Forgiveness comes after repentance...only after repentance. Forgiveness must come only after repentance. This is non-negotiable.''

Asked if she was willing to grant Estrada amnesty should the disgraced president get a conviction in any of the criminal charges he is facing, Arroyo said: ''As I said, we don't even want to think about that at this point. What is important is to have justice before even thinking of forgiveness.''

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) have proposed Estrada be allowed to go on exile, saying his presence is a threat to the stability of the country.

But Arroyo said she decided against the suggestions and instead decided ''to require him (Estrada) to answer the charges here in the Philippines.''

''The fight is not over yet,'' she said, adding her barely three-week administration has inherited a ''battered economy, broken promises and shattered dreams.''

She said Estrada's two-and-a-half-year administration has practically wiped out the gains made by the administrations of former presidents Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos.

''For an emergent tiger economy, the Philippines is back once more to being the sick man of Asia,'' she said. ''We don't have the luxury of time. Sacrifices have to be made.''

Arroyo lamented that political issues continue to divide the country amid the many economic issues now confronting the country.

Questions on whether to allow Estrada to leave the country to enable him to seek medical treatment in the U.S. continue to drag the country and detract the focus of her new government.

''Our national problems are complex. Our concerns are multifaceted,'' she said.

Arroyo took over the presidency from Estrada Jan. 20 when a popular civilian uprising supported by the military and police forced Estrada to out half way through his six-year term.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Feb 19, 2001
Words:427
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