APRIL 25, 2006 (STAR) President Gloria Arroyo will visit Saudi Arabia next month for talks on oil and other economic links, an embassy official said.

The visit will take place in early May and last around four days, but the exact date and details of the trip have yet to be finalized, the official told AFP, requesting anonymity.

Arroyo had been due to visit the oil-rich kingdom, where nearly a million Filipinos live and work, last September, but the trip did not materialize.

Charter reforms designed to remove endless political gridlock: Palace 04/24 4:50:51 PM

Malacañang said Monday that changing the Constitution to pave the way for the shift from presidential to parliamentary form of government would remove the never-ending political gridlock that has stalled the country’s march to development and progress.

But Press Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye stressed that to break the "perpetual political gridlock" that has hounded the country over the years entails an "honorable sacrifice to be made by our senators in exchange for a brighter future for our nation."

Following the Supreme Court’s decision on Executive Order 464, some senators have openly declared their determination to reopen the investigation of controversial issues, including alleged cheating in the 2004 election, that had paralyzed the legislative task of the chamber since last year.

Bunye issued the statement as the Charter Change Advocacy Commission (AdCom) said today that its information caravan on the proposed shift from presidential to parliamentary form of government covered 45 population centers nationwide during the last six weeks.

Reporting on the status of their information drive, AdCom Chairman Lito Monico Lorenzana said during the last six weeks, his group held 11 meetings with various sectors in the National Capital Region (NCR), 11 in other parts of Luzon, nine in the Visayas and 14 in Mindanao.

Among the Cabinet officials present were Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio R. Bunye and Presidential Chief of Staff Michael Defensor.

"I wish to congratulate the members of the advocacy commission," Ermita said, adding that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also asked him to extend her congratulations to the AdCom for its efforts to keep the people fully informed on the need to change the Constitution to pave the way for shift from presidential to parliamentary system of government.

Police seek greater counterinsurgency role due to mounting attacks: official 04/24 6:25:28 PM

MANILA (AP) - A spike in communist guerrilla attacks on police targets has forced the 115,000-strong police to seek the right to battle insurgents independent of the military, the national police chief said Monday.

New People's Army guerrillas have staged nine attacks on police forces and stations so far this year, capturing 97 firearms, compared to last year's total of 10 rebel attacks that bagged 75 weapons, police said.

Police, who primarily deal with crime, have to notify the military, which is in the front line of the counterinsurgency war, before they launch an assault on guerrillas, national police chief Director-General Arturo Lomibao said.

"We find that not favorable to us," Lomibao told foreign correspondents. "With the strategic shift now, which is being ironed out and the subject of a study, then we can perhaps operate independently or in tandem with the armed forces.

"We have to do something. We should not wait for the NPAs to attack our troops," he said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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