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Ramos calls Erap a coward
By Lynda T. Jumilla, PDI

SHORT of calling him a coward, President Ramos yesterday said Vice President Joseph Estrada could not possibly lead the country if he is one to fear for his safety.

''Fears that are being aired now, causing the hiding or isolation of some of the candidates, are really uncalled for,'' he said in an interview during a sortie in Dagupan City.

''It is not the kind of quality of a fearless, aggressive, people oriented president,'' said Mr. Ramos, a retired military general and former secretary of defense.

He was referring to reports Estrada, Laban ng Makabayang Masang Pilipino standard-bearer, had ended his campaign a week before the elections and closeted himself in safehouses in light of alleged threats to his life.

''The people would like a brave president,'' said Mr. Ramos who, according to his security chief, had been targeted for assassination early this year.

''My own experience has been that I expose myself completely to the people without fearing this or that kind of threat, whether real or imaginary,'' he said.

Still, the President gave assurances Estrada would be safe and protected from any attempts on his life.  ''Under our principle of equal protection under the law, even the highest-ranking candidate, whether they are in the opposition or not, whether they are small people or not, whether they are leading or not, are entitled to protection,'' he said.

As Chief Executive, Mr. Ramos said he guarantees that protection to everybody including Estrada.  Earlier, Mr. Ramos said he was no 'fraidy-cat president and would continue with his official activities--including mingling with the people--despite the latest threat on his life.

He had also ordered law enforcement agencies to look into reports of an alleged 1992 order by Estrada to have him assassinated.

In previous statements on why Estrada was not fit to be president, Mr. Ramos cited the Vice President's alleged health problems and inability to cope with the physical and other demands of the highest office of the land.

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