TERRORISM LINKS MINDANAO AND IRAQ -- GMA

Manila, March 29, 2003 -- Terrorism is the common enemy threatening the 
Philippines and the United States and justifies the military actions 
undertaken in Mindanao and in Iraq, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said 
Saturday.

The President, in her weekly radio message, reiterated earlier statements 
that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's "weapons of mass destruction" might 
get into the hands of terrorist groups in the Philippines and be used 
against civilians.
  "Dito natin makikita ang kaugnayan ng gera sa Iraq at ang aktibong 
depensa ng mga komunidad laban sa mga naghahasik ng lagim sa Mindanao, 
(Through this we can see the link between the war in Iraq and our own 
active defense against groups terrorizing Mindanao)," she said.

Government forces are engaged in military operations against the Abu Sayyaf 
bandit group, which is known to have links with the al-Qaeda terrorist 
network, and against the Muslim separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front 
that for the last two decades has attempted to establish an independent 
Islamic state in Mindanao.

Macapagal has pledged support for the US-led "coalition of the willing" 
that launched strikes against Iraq to oust Saddam and destroy alleged 
weapons of mass destruction.

"Now is the time to be united towards one direction," she said, as she 
lambasted groups who oppose her pro-war stance for "politicizing the war" 
and "misleading the public."

Macapagal rallied local officials down to the barangay (neigborhood) level 
to work hand-in-hand with the military and police in thwarting possible 
attacks by terrorists and "desperate extremists" in the country.

"I urge communities, especially barangay leaders to be on watch for dubious 
persons, movements, and objects because terrorists are fearless and could 
strike anytime," she said.

Ms Macapagal assured listeners that her administration was doing all it 
could to weather the crisis brought on by the war.

The military and the police have been placed on alert, she said. She added 
she has ordered the activation of monitoring teams to see to it consumers 
were protected against traders taking advantage of the crisis to jack up 
prices of basic commodities.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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