[PHOTO AT LEFT - Lights adorn the 16th-century Binondo Church in Manila as Catholics attend a pre-dawn Mass in this file photo. - Photo By VAL RODRIGUEZ]

MANILA, DECEMBER 16, 2006 (STAR) By Aurea Calica - President Arroyo delivered yesterday an early Christmas message, calling on all Filipinos to help victims of calamities "with heartfelt compassion and generosity."

She said this should be a time for "sharing and caring for those in direst need."

Mrs. Arroyo earlier sent off a caravan of relief goods and other aid to the victims of typhoon "Reming" in Bicol and thanked the international community for providing help as well.

In her message, the President said the country’s condition is getting better and more stable because of God’s grace.

"The dawning of the year, it will come together in the mighty grace of the Lord," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo said the reforms implemented by the government were already bearing fruit and result in better services for the people.

"We can expect more investments and jobs in the coming days as we continue our fight against poverty," she said. "This is our mission: To build prosperity for the greatest number of our people."

The President said she would pray for more blessings for everyone in the new year.

On Thursday, Mrs. Arroyo and her allies backed down on the issue of Charter change (Cha-cha) to be able to focus more on other matters.

Officials said the Cha-cha was causing too much divisiveness among the people and that it was not yet the right time to push for it.

"Philippine democracy will always find the proper time and opportunity for Charter reform at a time when the people deem it ripe and needful, and in the manner they deem proper," Mrs. Arroyo said.

She added that "it is time to gather together all the energies of our people for the continuing work ahead — maintaining our economic strength, ensuring the social payback of economic reforms, and helping distressed communities back to their feet."

Mrs. Arroyo also decided to postpone the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit and other leaders’ meetings in Cebu on Dec. 10 to 14 because of typhoon "Seniang" and to be able to concentrate on attending to the needs of the calamity victims.

Relief efforts are aggressive in Albay, as the "sharing and caring caravan" from Metro Manila and other parts of the country, as well as international relief organizations continued to distribute relief goods.

Much-needed medicines and materials for constructing shelters for the homeless were brought by the caravan and the relief organizations’ workers.

The Metro Manila Development Authority and other volunteer engineering teams are helping to clear the Bicol region’s streets of debris scattered by Reming, as well as repair damaged infrastructure and restore electricity.

According to the Department of Social Welfare and Development, a total of 18,377 families displaced by Reming are still seeking refuge in evacuation centers. DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral said the evacuation

centers were located in the provinces of Laguna, Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes and Sorsogon.

In Albay province, the identified resettlement sites are in Anislag, Daraga; Banquerohan, Legaspi City; and San Andres, Sto. Domingo.

Some 700 evacuation sites were set up for the typhoon victims but the number of evacuation camps now stands at 488 after many of the evacuees returned home or sought shelter with relatives.

QC police deploys ‘Santa Cops’ The Philippine Star 12/16/2006

The Quezon City Police District (QCPD) deployed yesterday 27 policemen wearing Santa Claus caps and dubbed as "Santa Cops" at the Araneta Center in Cubao to conduct foot patrol and prevent street criminals who prey on Christmas shoppers.

Senior Superintendent Magtanggol Gatdula, QCPD director, assigned 27 rookie policemen and policewomen to the Cubao police station headed by Superintendent Procopio Lipana.

"The Santa cops will be on the watch for criminal elements in the area," Gatdula said.

The deployment of the Santa cops is in compliance with the order of Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte Jr. for the mobilization of the police and concerned city hall units to keep shopping centers safe for shoppers during the Christmas rush.

Belmonte said that a series of briefing have been held with QCPD officials and the police have been informed on what should be given priority in the performance of their duty.

He also instructed the Parks and Development Administration Department to expedite the installation and rehabilatation of street lights in dark streets, particularly in crime-prone areas.

The mayor ordered the police to expedite the acquisition of motor vehicles and equipment to improve mobility and address the crime problem in the city.

The QCPD also presented to the media yesterday suspected criminals that were arrested in separate police operations.

Among those presented were carjackers, robbers, and snatchers. Superintendent Bernabe Balba, chief of the District Intelligence and Investigation Division, said police operations are still ongoing in several part of the city to arrest more suspects.

"We are expecting more arrest," Balba said. – Perseus Echeminada

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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