Surfeit of ills

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 November, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 November, 2003, 12:00am

Since he was thrown out of office two years ago, disgraced president Joseph Estrada has proved to be a man of many parts - most of them defective.

Just last week, he was trundled off to a posh private hospital outside Manila so specialists could examine the 'multiple slipped discs' in his back and 'torn ligaments' in his knee. Last year, Estrada had a cataract operation, and also an intraocular lens implantation in his right eye.

Now, his doctors say his arthritic knees require an operation to replace them with prosthetics. His son claims Estrada's bones have not been getting much sunshine and have become brittle. And oh yes, his 'coronary risk-factors' need further evaluation of his 'cardiovascular status'.

What is noteworthy is that the ex-president, the defendant in a plunder and graft trial which could see him sentenced to death, only started suffering major medical problems once he had been imprisoned. His doctors and supporters have had one consistent reaction to the various ailments: immediate treatment in the United States.

Prosecutors say Estrada's medical problems are being used as a ruse to slip him out of the country and the reach of justice. He already has access to the best specialists and doctors in the Philippines. In fact, he is not confined in prison, but at a suite in a government hospital where he enjoys unheard-of privileges: visitors, choice food, video games and even, on one occasion, a catered party, complete with pianist. It is certainly a strange way to treat the country's most infamous prisoner.

Yet his lawyers insist their client is suffering and desperately needs treatment abroad. They glibly swear he would never dream of fleeing his trial once allowed out of the country.

I have a suggestion. Instead of having to go to various hospitals seeking specialist treatment, and to save him the trouble of an arduous trip abroad, Estrada could just stay put in his suite and mail out his problematic body parts. Even his bones could be sunned in California.

And who knows? Specialists might even be able to reassemble Estrada at the other end. And then he would be out of the country.