The President’s Day: May 16, 2003

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16 MAY 2003

  • GMA leaves tomorrow for state visit to U.S.
  • GMA hands over P120,000, vows more aid to kin of OFWs killed in Riyadh bombings
  • MILF showed true terrorist color in past three months
  • Rebel returnees get package of benefits
  • GMA graces text2teach launching
  • TOR for planned Balikatan in Sulu similar to Basilan exercise

GMA leaves tomorrow for state visit to U.S.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will leave tomorrow for an eight-day state visit to the United States to further strengthen RP-US partnership in security and counter-terrorism and to expand the level of cooperation in trade and investments between the two countries.

The President said that her Washington visit is deemed crucial since the world has changed after the March 20, 2003 US-led action against Iraq ushering in a new global environment that requires a fresh perspective on regional political and economic security.

Earlier, the White House announced that US President George W. Bush would welcome President Macapagal-Arroyo for a state visit as an expression of gratitude to the country’s support to the US in the global fight against terrorism.

In his announcement, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said that the in welcoming the Philippine President, President Bush would like to thank President Macapagal-Arroyo, the people and the government of the Philippines “for their stalwart efforts in fighting the war on terror, for being such a good and reliable ally to the United States.”

The President will leave tomorrow night for Los Angeles, California, the first leg of her state visit, through the regular flight of the Philippine Airlines.

After an overnight stay in Los Angeles where she will address a gathering of the members of the Filipino-American community in the West Coast, the President will fly to Washington, D. C. the following day.

Upon arrival at the Dulles Airport in Washington, D. C. the President, First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo and some of the members of her official party would be flown to Washington Monument Grounds by two helicopters provided by the US government.

The President and the First Gentleman would then motor to the Blair House, the official guesthouse of the American government for visiting foreign dignitaries, where she will stay during her Washington visit.

The following day, Monday (Tuesday in Manila), President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush would formally welcome the President and the First Gentleman in arrival ceremonies to be held at the South Lawn of the White House, after which President Bush would escort the visiting President to the Oval Office for a bilateral meeting, the highlight of her state visit.

Immediately after their meeting at the Oval Office, the two leaders and their respective panels would hold an expanded bilateral meeting at the Cabinet Room in the White House.

During the bilateral talks, the two leaders are expected to discuss defense and security cooperation, especially in the fight against terrorism, and other issues affecting the two countries.

The two leaders are also expected to talk about the humanitarian and reconstruction efforts in Iraq, which is being participated in by the Philippines.

The Philippines was among the 20 countries that supported the US-led “coalition of the willing” in the war against the tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein although it did not send combat troops to the war.

As part of its international commitment, the President has approved the sending of a 175-man peacekeeping and humanitarian mission, composed mostly of medical staff, to help restore normalcy and stability to Iraq.

She has said that stability in the Middle East is crucial to global stability and for the Philippines, this is particularly important because this means the long-term safety of some 1.5-million Filipino workers in the region.

During her talks with Bush, the President is also expected to touch on such sensitive issues as preferential trade arrangements, intellectual property protection, and equal benefits for Filipino World War II veterans.

The US Department of State will host a state lunch for the President and her official delegation after her talks with President Bush at the White House.

President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush would then tender a state dinner at the White House for the visiting Philippine leader and her official party.

On her second day in Washington, leaders of US financial institutions would call on the President at the Blair House, among them Shengman Zhang, vice president for policies and programs of the World Bank; Peter Voicke, head and managing director of the International Finance Corporation; and Horst Kohler, managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

In between her official engagements, the President would be interviewed by NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell and Wolf Blitzer of CNN International.

The President would also call on Senator Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, at his office in the US Senate. Mr. Lugar is an old friend of the Philippines.

A number of government-to-government memorandums of agreement (MOAs) and private sector agreements would be signed by the Philippine and American panels during the Washington leg of the President’s visit to the US.

This would be the second time that President Bush meets with President Macapagal-Arroyo at the White House. On Nov. 20, 2001, President Bush also welcomed the President to the White House during a weeklong working visit to the US.

The two leaders also met at the 10th Economic Leaders’ Meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) held last October 27, 2002 in Los Cabos, Mexico.

From Washington, D. C., the President will proceed to New York where she will meet with US business leaders and receive a honorary doctorate degree of laws at the prestigious Fordham University.

GMA hands over P120,000, vows more aid to kin of OFWs killed in Riyadh bombings

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today handed over P120,000 each to the families of three overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who were killed during the recent bomb attacks by terrorists in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The President spared time to condole with the families of deceased OFWs Serafin Hernandez, Getulio Templo and Rogelio Pababero at the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) office in Pasay City despite a hectic schedule.

She told the Hernandez, Templo and Pababero families that the checks represented the insurance gratuities and benefits of the late Filipino expatriates.

She said the bereaved families would also be eligible for the scholarship program, entrepreneurship development training, repatriation and airport assistance and others.

She disclosed that relatives of the workers could avail themselves of scholarships that the AMA Computer College is offering.

The President took time to reiterate her belief that the OFWs serve not only as modern-day heroes but “martyrs” of the land.

She cited her government’s determination to seek the best for OFWs.

OWWA Administrator Virgilio Angelo said Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas had ordered labor officials in Riyadh to closely coordinate with Saudi authorities to work out the earliest repatriation of the bodies of Hernandez, Templo and Pababero.

Angelo said labor officials have also been negotiating with the employers of the three OFWs for the release of monetary claims, including unpaid salaries.

MILF showed true terrorist color in past three months

Is the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) a secessionist group or a band of terrorists out to sow havoc in war-torn Mindanao?

Events of the past three months and documents recovered from the capture of the Buliok complex in the Liguasan Marsh area tend to belie the rebel groups’ claims that they are not allied with any of the terrorist groups like the Abu Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiya or Al Qaeda.

While the government has been consistent in its policy of keeping its doors open to the peace process, the MILF has been clandestinely building up its armed capability and influence in its areas of operation as well as conniving with criminal elements in kidnapping operations.

In particular, it was monitored that the MILF gives kidnap for ransom gangs (KFRGs) and extortion rings training support and sanctuary in the Liguasan Marsh in exchange for money.

MILF documents in the area last February 13 confirmed a standing plan by the MILF to conduct bombing operations.

The documents showed that the MILF has conducted training on bomb-making, particularly the pencil bomb type explosives, and demolition techniques.

The group has also recruited minors as combatants, signed a deal to buy military hardware from a foreign source and generated substantial funds from foreign and local supporters.

From all of these findings, it seems that the MILF has been preparing to launch terrorist activities while deceiving the government on the peace talks.

Declassified military information shows that MILF hostile actions have escalated after the Buliok operations and prior to the signing of the joint statement for the cessation of hostilities last March 28.

A total of 251 MILF-caused hostile incidents were recorded, resulting in the death of 70 civilians and the wounding of 222 others.

The most notable incidents were the massacre of 19 hapless farmers in Kalawit, Zamboanga del Norte last February 19; the bombing of Cotabato airport on February 20 resulting in the death of one soldier, wounding of six civilians and conflagration of 15 commercial establishments; and in front of the Davao international airport on March 4 killing 23 people and wounding 127 others.

MILF actions also resulted in the destruction of 54 NAPOCOR towers, causing significant disruption of business activity and millions of pesos in revenue loss.

Despite the signing of the joint statement, the MILF continued to conduct armed offensives targeting communities and public installations.

The MILF had conducted 142 armed attacks in Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, Davao City, Davao Oriental, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay.

The bulk of these attacks were in the form of harassments, bombings/sabotage and raids not only against military and police positions but also civilian communities and urban centers particularly in Central and Western Mindanao.

The most notable of these are the bombing of the Sasa Wharf in Davao City on April 2 which killed 19 innocent civilians and wounded 39 others; the execution of 13 civilians on board a passenger jeep following a road blockade in Maigo, Lanao del Norte last April 24; and the attack on the municipality of Siocon in Zamboanga del Norte last May 4 resulting in the death of 10 civilians, six policemen, five soldiers and the wounding of 29 others.

Because of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) active defense posture in the first four months of the year, MILF-initiated armed atrocities escalated to 426 incidents, a dramatic 171 percent increase compared to the 157 recorded for the whole year of 2002.

What is discernible, according to the AFP’s declassified information, is that the civilians are the ones absorbing the brunt of MILF atrocities, particularly after the Buliok incident.

This did not escape the eyes of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who personally condoled with the victims of the recent Koronadal bombing which again had civilians as victims.

While the government, she said, is hopeful that the MILF would return to the negotiating table to thresh out a lasting, meaningful and peaceful resolution to the Mindanao problem, she dared the rebel group to make a categorical and unequivocal declaration that it is not allied with any of the terrorist groups like the Abu Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiya or Al Qaeda.

The President also demanded that the MILF turn over the perpetrators of the bombings in Mindanao, particularly those in Davao City, Siocon, and Koronadal.

She likewise challenged the MILF to stop committing further atrocities against innocent civilians and peaceful communities in the South and show an indication that they are prepared to talk.

“Anything short of these will be considered half measures, which will not do,” the President said. “Punitive action will continue and we will escalate political and military measures as necessary. This is not a fight against Muslims. This is a fight against terror being waged by all decent and civilized Filipinos.”

She also said that the government would not acknowledge false offers of peace and succumb to political pressure.

“To retreat now would only invite more depredations,” she said. “I have the duty to protect the national interest from greater harm.”

Rebel returnees get package of benefits

STA. CRUZ, Laguna – Aware that poverty is the root of rebellion and terrorism in the country, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday ordered all government agencies to provide rebel returnees a package of benefits that would help them lead a new and productive life.

The President gave the order during a homecoming ceremony at the Laguna Cultural Center here for 123 former dissidents from the CPP-NPA who returned to the folds of the law.

She told the rebel returnees to forget about their turbulent past and turn a new leaf after distributing a financial assistance of P4,500, a sack of rice, free lots and construction materials to build their houses, health cards and life insurance.

“Thank you for your decision to bring your faith to the justice of our government,” the President said in her welcome remarks. “Kalimutan na natin and inyong marahas na kahapon. Hindi kayo kasama doon sa ating mga kalabang organisado (Let us now forget your violent past. You are no longer a part of the our organized enemy).”

The President announced that Secretary Michael Defensor of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) has already received an assurance from General Manager Felixto Cataquiz of the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) that the agency would provide free lots and lumber for the construction of houses to 123 rebel returnees.

She also informed the former rebels that PhilHealth president Francisco T. Duque, Jr. would give them free PhilHealth cards to help them in their medical check-up, medical consultation and operation, if necessary.

While the President made her speech, Duque distributed certification and health cards to all rebel beneficiaries.

The President also said that all rebel returnees who want to farm would be given coconut seedlings to start their livelihood project.

She also asked the former rebels wishing to become fishermen to form a cooperative so they could be given fish nets and permit from the LLDA to operate fish pens in Laguna Lake.

The President reiterated that the kind of benefits she would provide to all rebel returnees is the same thing she wants to give to all marginalized sectors in the province of Laguna.

The President ordered Secretary Jose D. Lina, Jr. of the Department of Interior and Local Government to locate all poor fisherman and farmers in his hometown to help and provide them the same benefits and assistance given to all rebel returnees.

“They need to locate and help them so that they cannot be easily brainwashed by the communist rebels to join and fight against the government,” the President said.

The Cabinet secretaries and other top officials who accompanied the President were Corazon Juliano-Soliman of the Department of Social Welfare and Development; Angelo Reyes of the Department of National Defense; Teresita “Ding” Deles of the National Anti-Poverty Commission; Eduardo Ermita of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process; Lina; Michael Defensor of the HUDCC; Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Narciso Abaya; Philippine Chairman Ma. Livia “Honey Girl” de Leon; PhilHealth president Francisco Duque III; and general manager Felixto Cataquiz of the LLDA.

GMA graces text2teach launching

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today witnessed the launching of the text2teach, the initial Philippine-wide pilot project of BridgeIT that would allow public elementary schools gain access to international learning materials with the use of mobile technology.

At the launching at the Hotel Intercontinental in Makati City, the President began the simulation process of the project by pressing and sending T2T from a Nokia Globe cellphone.

Immediately after, a two-minute presentation was run showing the simulation process from the time a teacher sends a request from a cellular phone until a satellite feed downloads her requested module into a digital recorder connected to a television set in the classroom.

BridgeIT is a global program developed jointly by Nokia, the International Youth Foundation (IYF), Pearson and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

The Ayala Foundation spearheaded the text2teach in the country in cooperation with the Department of Education (DepEd) and local partners Globe Telecom, Nokia-Philippines, SEAMEO INNOTECH, PMSI-Dream Broadcasting, and service provider Chikka Asia.

text2teach would enable teachers to use Nokia-supplied mobile phones to request more than 80 full-length videos, each of which introduces and illustrates a key component of the Philippine science curriculum.

The project implementation would begin in June for Grades 5 and 6 students of 40 schools in selected areas in Quezon City, Batangas, Laguna and Cotabato City.

The IYF has begun training 80 teachers to use the technology that would initially benefit more than 10,000 students nationwide.

The Philippines was selected as the pilot venue for BridgeIT because of its good telecommunications infrastructure, the Filipinos’ good command of English, and the government’s focus on education as a means to overcome poverty.

The Philippine pilot would provide a “blueprint” for replicating programs in other less developed countries.

Among those who graced the launching were DepEd Secretary Edilberto de Jesus, Presidential Assistant for Poverty Alleviation Victoria Garchitorena, Transportation and Communications Undersecretary Virgilio Peña, Ayala Corporation president Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, and Nokia executive vice president Veli Sundback.

TOR for planned Balikatan in Sulu similar to Basilan exercise

Malacañang today said the terms of reference (TOR) of the projected conduct of a Balikatan in Sulu would be similar to the joint US-RP military exercises in Basilan last year.

Presidential Management Staff chief Secretary Silvestre Afable Jr. said the consensus was reached between the Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security (COCIS), the leaders of Congress, and officials from the province of Sulu during a consultation meeting this morning in Malacañang.

Afable said the consultation was in relation to the planned conduct of the Balikatan in Sulu sometime by the end of June or mid-July.

“I cannot announce the details of the consultation except that a consensus has been reached on a, let’s say, a consensus has gelled between the Office of the President, the LGUs (local government units) concerned and the leaders of Congress on a new set of terms of reference,” Afable said. “The terms of reference would basically be the same as the Balikatan that was held in Basilan last year.”

In terms of principle, he said the new TOR would contain provisions that would adhere to constitutional standards, and the United Nations resolutions on the fight against terrorism.

“And this term of reference would be made public once they are finalized upon mutual agreement between the Philippines and the US government,” he added.

Afable said the TOR in the Balikatan in Basilan last year provided that US troops would not be involved in any offensive combat operations.

“They can only fire back in self-defense,” he said.

He said Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo presided over the meeting.

Others in attendance were Senate President Franklin Drilon, House Speaker Jose de Venecia, Senator Ramon Magsaysay, Sulu Governor Yusuf Jikiri, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Parouk Hussin, Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, National Security Adviser Secretary Roilo Golez, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Eduardo Ermita, and others involved in the security establishment.

Source: Office of the Press Secretary

Office of the Press Secretary. (2003). [The President’s Day: May 16, 2003]. Retrieved from