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Erap returns Arroyo gesture

MANILA Mayor and former President Joseph E. Estrada waves goodbye after visiting former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria M. Arroyo at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City yesterday. (Photo by Linus Guardian Escandor II)

Manila, Philippines – Manila Mayor and former President Joseph E. Estrada yesterday spent over an hour at his former hospital detention suite in Quezon City to pay a visit to its present occupant, former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria M. Arroyo, and show the same brand of kindness and humility the lawmaker demonstrated in 2001.

Estrada’s hospital visit to a former political foe came several days after another former President, Fidel V. Ramos, gave Arroyo a quick one.

Ramos reportedly chanced upon the former lady Chief Executive while he was playing at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center golf course and she was having her one hour walk just outside her detention quarters.

Estrada, who came with his daughter Jackie Ejercito Lopez and Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, stayed at Arroyo’s hospital suite for at least 70 minutes and was treated to a “merienda” (snack) of an amiable hostess.

Arroyo, who wore a red house dress, took off her neck brace as soon as Estrada’s arrival was announced at about 2:55 p.m. She wore a scarf around her neck to hide the brace marks.

Lawyer Larry Gadon, a legal consultant of Arroyo, said it was the first time that Arroyo did not complain about pain in the neck without a brace that she immediately wore a few minutes after the Estrada entourage left.

“Clearly, Congresswoman Arroyo was in high spirits, she was overwhelmed by Mayor Estrada’s show of compassion and friendship that the back pain just went away for one hour,” said Gadon.

Aside from Gadon, helping Arroyo entertain visitors were former First Gentleman Jose Miguel T. Arroyo, former Pampanga Gov. Cielo Macapagal-Salgado, and Arroyo advisers Raul Lambino, Gary Olivar, and Cheloy Garafil.

Ike Gutierrez, Estrada spokesman, said the Estrada group noticed Arroyo to have shed off pounds, saying that she may have weighed “less than 80 pounds.”

Arroyo, who is facing a plunder charge for allegedly authorizing the use of P360 million from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, has been suffering from “continued cervical and lumbar pain” due to spondylotic radiculopathy degenerative lumbar spine and post-cervical spine decompression.

Gutierrez said Estrada thanked Arroyo for her 2001 visit and was there as a friend. “They did not discuss anything about politics,” said Gutierrez as she lauded Arroyo for playing a good host.

The Estrada entourage was treated to spaghetti, Christmas ham, and fruit cake.

During his visit, Estrada recalled how he was elated by Arroyo’s visit in 2001. He also recalled the time Arroyo granted his appeal to visit his ailing mother and have a knee surgery.

“Dinalaw mo rin ako dati, ang laking pasasalamat ko sa ginawa mo. Natatandaan ko rin na pinayagan mo ako bumisita sa nanay ko at magpa-opera ng tuhod,” a source privy to the conversation recounted Estrada as saying. (BRR)

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