Manila declares holiday truce with Maoist rebels
.The Philippine military will observe a traditional truce with Maoist-led rebels over the Christmas and New Year period, unilaterally suspending Army offensives for four days, an official said on Tuesday.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said government forces would not launch operations against the rebels on December 24-25, December 31 and January 1.
The truce is shorter than the three-week suspension of military operations in 2007, and will cover only the communist New People's Army (NPA) rebels, and not Islamist fighters.
"There will be no let up in our law enforcement operations against rogue Muslim rebels and Islamic militants in the south," Ermita told reporters.
Three rogue commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Muslim rebel group, have been fighting Philippine troops since August, despite a formal truce with the government.
Nearly 300 people have died in four months of conflict that has displaced about 750,000 people in six Muslim provinces on the restive southern island of Mindanao.
Officials said the existing truce with the MILF will remain in force.
Since 1986, the government has observed a holiday ceasefire with communist rebels as the mainly Roman Catholic state celebrates one of the world's longest Christmas seasons.
Christmas holidays in the Philippines begin with dawn masses from December 16 and end on the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6.
There was no immediate reaction from the 5,000-member Maoist rebel group, which has been waging a protracted guerrilla war since the late 1960s. The conflict has killed about 40,000 people and stunted economic growth in the country.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered the military to wipe out the communist insurgency before she steps down in 2010. http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/12/16/08/manila-declares-holiday-truce-maoist-rebels
|Other groups may also be behind kidnaps in South
By James Mananghaya Updated December 17, 2008 12:00 AM
SANGLEY POINT, Cavite City – Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Alexander Yano said yesterday criminal groups other than the notorious Abu Sayyaf may also be behind the recent spate of kidnappings in the island provinces of Sulu and Basilan.
“The trouble here is, some of the kidnappings may no longer be perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf group. We are not discounting the possibility that some criminal groups may have also undertaken such acts for money-making purposes,” he said.
Yano, however, said they have not positively identified any group, adding that they are still validating field reports.
“Although some are attributed to the Abu Sayyaf, there is a possibility that in other cases, it’s becoming a syndicated crime,” he said.
Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres, AFP public affairs office chief, said the military would double its efforts to get the Abu Sayyaf bandits believed to be mainly responsible for the abductions.
“This is a dangerous development because the Abu Sayyaf is already targeting low-key personalities. We would double our efforts, especially our coordination with local government officials and religious leaders,” he said.
“The abduction of common people is not intended to raise funds for the bandit group but to have people (it) could use as human shields, especially with our intensified operations,” he said.
But despite the situation, he said there is still no need to deploy additional troops.
President Arroyo, alarmed by the kidnappings, has ordered the military to step up its operations against the Abu Sayyaf and other criminal elements in Basilan and Sulu. – With Jaime Laudehttp://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?ArticleId=424492&publicationSubCategoryId=67
Sayyaf releases school
Kidnappers released Kasim Pakkam on Monday in the village of Lanao Dakula in Parang town.
The police and military earlier identified Pakkam as Pakkam Hashim, the principal of Parang’s Kutah Sairap Elementary School who was kidnapped on December 12.
Police said no ransom was paid for the safe release of Pakkam, adding that the kidnapping was connected to a family feud, but police could not say why the Abu Sayyaf had been dragged into the quarrel.
“Pakkam has been freed unharmed. He is okay and reunited with his family. We are still tracking down the other Chinese hostage, Xili Wu, who is still in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf,” said Senior Supt. Julasirim Kasim, the Sulu police chief.
Abu Sayyaf militants kidnapped Wu as he was closing his electronics store in Jolo town at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Unconfirmed reports said the kidnappers demanded P10 million ransom for Wu’s freedom, Kasim said, adding, the mayor of Jolo, Hussin Amin, has convened a crisis management committee, to tackle the kidnapping of the foreigner, a native of Fujian province in China.
Police said the 28-year-old Wu was using the alias of Peter Go, who is staying in Jolo with four other Chinese since December last year. Wu co-owns the Perlas Trading in downtown Jolo.
Authorities implicated Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad as behind Wu’s kidnapping.
Kasim said about four kidnappers; all clad in camouflage uniform and armed with automatic weapons, seized Wu after disarming his private security guards and dragged him to a waiting van in front of horrified civilians.
Chief Inspector Usman Pingay, the Jolo police chief, said they are investigating how the foreigners were able to put up a business in Jolo.