Two French nationals accused deposed Philippine president Joseph Estrada, Malaysia's Federal State of Sabah, a Malaysian travel agency and its insurance firm, of endangering their lives when they were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf from a resort in Sipadan in April, 2000.

The two were taken captive and hidden away in Jolo, Sulu, southern Philippines where they were kept by the rebel Abu Sayyaf for five months of captivity.

The Philippine Justice Department will assist the French embassy in serving the writ of summons on Estrada, currently imprisoned and charged with plunder to the tune of $78 million.

"This is expected to happen next week," said Marie Yuviencgo, of the Public Interest Law Centre which is assisting French complainants Stephane Loisy and his girlfriend, Sonia Wendling.

French international law expert Etienne Rosenthal had filed the chargesheet in the Court of Nantes in France last Tuesday, said Yuviengco, adding the writ of summons was already sent to the Philippine justice department.

"The case will be heard in two months. By that time, the former president has to find a French lawyer to represent him in court," said Yuviengco.

Estrada is awaiting the arrival of the summons. He does not believe that the case filed by the French nationals against him was orchestrated by Malacanang, the presidential palace, said his lawyer Raymund Fortun, in a phone interview.

Rosenthal would not reveal the amount demanded in damages by the two French nationals.

The lives of the hostages were further endangered when Estrada, after failing to succeed in negotiating for their release, ordered the military to launch an all out war against the hostage-takers in the hinterlands of Jolo, the French nationals said in the charge sheet.

Estrada resorted to a military solution despite his country's international commitments from the Convention Against Hostage-Taking in New York on December 17, 1979, and the existence of the risks of reprisals run by the hostages," said the French nationals.

Because of their traumatic experiences, Loisy and Wendling, both engineers, suffered emotionally, physically and mentally.

Apart from Estrada, other government officials and private citizens who were involved in the negotiations will be included in the liability damage suit, Yuviencgo said.

The Federal State of Sabah-Malaysia failed "to ensure its guests a minimum amount of security", said the chargesheet, adding that travel agency Ultramarina sold the scuba diving trip to the French nationals without disclosing the risks of terrorist attacks which have been regularly taking place in the area for the past 15 years.

The French nationals also accused Axa, Ultramarina's insurance, of a lack of transparency such as disclosing the risk or adventure expected in the scuba-diving trip.

Loisy maintained in detail the suffering of the 19 hostages, most of them foreigners, in a diary which he kept during his captivity. It was later developed into a book, entitled Hostage in Jolo, which was published by French firm Denoel.

"What happened to the so-called Sipadan hostages has shown how the Philippine government has put the kidnap victims in precarious condition in a kidnapping situation," said Yuviengco.

Loisy and Wendling were part of an estimated 40 hostages, taken to Jolo, Sulu in July 2000. They were released after non-government representatives from Libya, Malaysia and Europe paid an estimated $ 25 million ransom to the hostage-takers.