* A rather comical situation in the Philippines, where the hapless Arroyo government is somehow (how exactly?) trying toÂ separateÂ the good Moro’s from the bad MILF’s, just likeÂ they’reÂ trying toÂ separate the good Hamas boyz from the bad Fatah terrorists (or visa-versa) andÂ elsewhereÂ the good Sunni’s from the bad Shite…. you get the drift?
Philippine leader vows to pursue rogue Muslim rebels
Cotabato City, Philippines – Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Saturday vowed no let-up in the military offensive against Muslim rebels who seized villages and attacked towns in a strife-torn southern region of Mindanao. Continued page 2
Which is immediately followed by:
Arroyo: Gov’t wants peace with MILFÂ
Arroyo visited an army camp near Cotabato City Saturday and exhorted soldiers to continue operations against Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels who launched attacks in the nearby provinces in August.
‘I count on you soldiers to isolate the lawless Moro rebels,’ she said in a short speech after giving medals and commendations to soldiers involved in the offensive.
‘The government and Filipino people appreciate and recognize your sacrifices in pursuit of justice for the victims of lawless MILF rebels,’ she added.
Arroyo said she was still determined to find peaceful solution to the Muslim insurgency in Mindanao despite the ongoing operations against selected MILF rebels.
The MILF rebels launched the attacks in August after the Supreme Court blocked a territory deal between the government and guerrilla peace negotiators that would have expanded the existing autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao.
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional the territory deal known as the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain.
More than 200 people have been killed and more than 500,000 displaced in subsequent clashes between government troops and MILF rebels.
Arroyo: Gov’t wants peace with MILFÂ
By Jeoffrey Maitem, Edwin Fernandez
CAMP SIONGCO, SHARIFF KABUNSUAN, Philippinesâ€”President Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday said the government was committed to pursuing peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) even as punitive actions against rogue Moro rebels continued in the restive South.
“Even as we pursue these criminals, we remain committed to peace. We must all work to gain peace in Mindanao,” said Ms Arroyo in a speech she delivered before soldiers here.
While urging the military to continue running after the forces of Ameril Ombra Kato in Maguindanao and Abdullah Macapaar, alias Commander Bravo, in Lanao, the President reminded the soldiers to respect human rights.
“In the performance of your mandate, the strict observance of the human rights of civilians is paramount,” she said.
“There is no alternative to peace so I count on you soldiers to work to isolate the lawless Moro rebels as we listen to the local communities,” she said.
Ms Arroyo also handed out medals to more than 40 soldiers involved in the Maguindanao operation against Kato. To the families of slain soldiers, she gave each P250,000 in cash.
“My salute and congratulations to you, our soldiers. The government and Filipino people appreciate and recognize your sacrifices in the pursuit of justice for the victims of lawless MILF rebels,” she said.
Phone cards, sleeping bags
A few hours before the President arrived here, soldiers and MILF rebels clashed in Guindulongan, Maguindanao. A soldier, Pfc. Benjie Magallanes, was wounded in the incident, according to Maj. Randolph Cabangbang, deputy spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command.
Aside from praising the soldiers for their gallantry, Ms Arroyo announced the release of P300-cellular phone cards to more than 7,000 of them in the region.
She also pledged to turn over P8.75 million to purchase sleeping bags.
“We thank the civic spirit of the citizens of Mindanao, particularly those in General Santos and Davao cities for their generous donations,” she said.
The President said she valued the sacrifices of the soldiers.
“Because of your sacrifices, I’m optimistic we will have lasting peace in Mindanao,” she said.
After her speech, the President held a closed-door meeting with military officials, who briefed her on the situation in Maguindanao.
Present at the meeting, which lasted about 20 minutes, were Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Datu Zaldy Ampatuan.
Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator, said there was nothing new in the President’s statement.
He said Ms Arroyo simply reinforced what the military has been doing since the resurgence of hostilities in August.
“Why do civilians have to suffer when they say they are only running after Kato? Soldiers are burning their houses,” Iqbal said.
While the MILF still wants a peaceful resolution of the conflict, “it no longer trusts the government,” he said. “After what they did to the ancestral domain deal, [they want to] resume negotiations? What are we going to talk about?”
Iqbal also said that if peace talks were to resume, a third party should be designated to guarantee that all agreements reached would be honored by the government.