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MANILA, JULY 13, 2007 (STAR) (AP) - A much maligned new anti-terror law is needed for battling al-Qaida-linked militants more effectively and to protect human rights by forcing authorities to operate within a legal framework, a terrorism expert said Friday.

Rohan Gunaratna, who heads the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore, said the Human Security Act that takes effect Sunday has been watered down but could be revised later to make it a more potent weapon against terrorists.

"I think the counterterrorism law is very weak, but the government has to implement it," Gunaratna told The Associated Press by telephone. "It's a good starting point."

Military forces have dealt with terror threats for years but have been accused of extra-judicial killings. If enforced properly, the new law will protect human rights by drawing a legal line that anti-terror units must not cross, he said.

Considering the legitimate terror threats confronting the country, "people living outside the Philippines are shocked that the country did not have anti-terrorism legislation," he said.

Gov't to drop coup charges versus Honasan Friday, July 13, 2007 02:21 PM MANILA (AFP)

- The Philippines dropped charges Friday against veteran coup plotter and senator Gregorio Honasan of trying to oust President Gloria Arroyo in a military rebellion.

Honasan, a former army colonel popularly known as "Gringo", had been charged with masterminding an attempted coup in 2003 which was quickly put down.

But a judge in a lower court in Manila ordered the case ended, after government prosecutors withdrew the charges Friday citing a lack of evidence.

The charismatic former military rebel expressed relief at the decision, describing the time since the charges were laid as "harrowing".

"We are of course very happy that our justice system is still working," said Honasan, who has been on bail since his arrest in Manila last November.

"I hope our people, especially the poor ones would also benefit from a very responsive justice system," he said. He has denied any role in the plot.

Honasan won a six-year term to the Senate in May mid-term elections despite facing life in prison if convicted over the attempted coup d'etat.

Judge Oscar Pimentel said the case against Honasan had been withdrawn.

"The request of the prosecution to withdraw the case against Senator Gregorio Honasan is hereby given due course," Pimentel said.

"The name of Senator Honasan is hereby dropped from the information and the case against him considered withdrawn," he said in his written order.

Prosecutors had charged him with masterminding the July 2003 mutiny by some 300 soldiers led by a cabal of junior military officers.

The soldiers seized plush apartments in Manila's financial district as part of a plan to force Arroyo's resignation.

But the plot crumbled in 24 hours and the rebels surrendered without a fight when they failed to rally support from the rest of the military.

Fifty-four of the officers have since been sentenced to seven years in jail by a military court.

Honasan received a presidential pardon in the early 1990s for his role in a series of bloody coup attempts against then president Corazon Aquino in the late 1980s.

Overseas workers five-month transfers up 21.9 percent Friday, July 13, 2007 06:27 PM MANILA (AFP)

- Cash transfers by the large overseas work force rose 21.9 percent from a year earlier to $5.9 billion in the five months to May, the central bank said Friday.

May remittances grew 8.4 percent from the previous year to $1.2 billion, it said in a statement.

The robust five-month increase was "due largely to technological innovations introduced by financial institutions that serve as conduits for remittance transfers," central bank governor Amando Tetangco said in the statement.

The slower advance in May was mainly due to the "base effect" following a sharp increase in the same period last year.

June foreign portfolio investments hit record Friday, July 13, 2007 08:11 PM MANILA (AFP)

 - Foreign investment in stocks, bonds and other financial instruments surged to a record high of $870.8 million in June, the central bank said Friday.

Gross inflows totaled $1.9 billion, of which 1.6 billion dollars were invested in listed shares, mostly in property and holding firms, a central bank statement said.

Placements in peso-denominated government securities accounted for 16 percent of the total while placements in peso time deposits made up two percent. Capital outflows for the period reached $1 billion.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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