, NOVEMBER 24, 2007 (OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY, MALACANG) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s call for the release of Myanmar’s freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi from 18 years of house arrest has gained the “very strong support” of the 14-man European Union (EU) Parliamentary delegation visiting the Philippines.

The President voiced her forceful position on the detained Burmese Nobel Peace Prize winner during the 13th Leaders’ Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Singapore early this week.

“We support very strongly your call for the release of Suu Kyi,” said Hartmut Nassauer of Germany, head of the EU delegation, during a meeting with the President at Malacanang’s Music Room this afternoon.

He said his group “respects your firm stand” on the Aung San Suu Kyi’s release and the President’s exhortation to Myanmar’s ruling junta to return Burma to the path of democracy.

Other members of the delegation were Ambassador Alistair MacDonald of the EU in the Philippines, Ambassador Peter Beckingham and Glyn Ford, United Kingdom; Zsabolcs Fazakas and Csaba Ory, Hungary; Dariusz Grabowski, Poland; Jules Maaten, The Netherlands; Jean-Pierre Audy, France; Giovanna Corda, Belgium, and Barbara Weiler of Germany.

The President said she was “glad” for the delegation’s support for her stand on the Myanmar issue.

She explained that she had to rush back to the Philippines a day before the four-day summit was to end to personally oversee government relief and rescue operations in the Bicol, Visayas and Mindanao areas battered by a strong typhoon.

The EU delegation also cited the Philippines for being the only country in Asia which has abolished the death penalty; and congratulated the President for “taking steps” to stem political and media killings.

The President updated the group on the latest developments in the prosecution of suspects in extrajudicial killings.

She said there have been six convictions so far, while 12 cases are undergoing trial. Two other cases, she added, are in advanced stages of prosecution.

She explained that while she wants trial of suspects in extrajudicial killings to proceed speedily, 28 cases were “stuck” in prosecution because the supposed victims – mostly from the Left – refuse to cooperate in the investigation. They “simply want to condemn the government for the killings,” she said.

The President also informed the EU delegation that she had created a Committee on Human Rights and the Melo Commission to dig deep into cases of political killings.

The Melo Commission has recommended the creation of special courts to try cases of political killings, increased assistance for victims, as well as more funding for the investigation of the killings.

The EU informed the President that the European press has devoted more media space to the killings in the Philippines than to the country’s improving economy.

The Arroyo administration had earlier invited the European Union to come the Philippines to see for itself the situation and to propose appropriate action to end the killings.

In a statement, Press Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye said that the Philippine government “continues to take steps to make foreign governments and entities aware of the actions that the Philippine government is taking to bring an end to the age-old problem of political violence that has been an unfortunate part of Philippine political culture.”

He pointed out that the “government, led by President Arroyo, has faced the issue of extra-judicial killings forthrightly and directly, both at home and with foreign governments.

“The Melo Commission was instituted by the Philippine government to get to the bottom of the issue, and the subsequent Melo recommendations have been followed with the full energy and backing of the Arroyo administration.”

Terrorism still top security problem’ By Edith Regalado Saturday, November 24, 2007

(STAR)  DAVAO CITY – Terrorism remains the biggest threat to the country’s security, according to Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro.

“Our biggest problem is still terrorism, whatever group it comes from,” Teodoro told The STAR yesterday.

He said the military’s excellent intelligence gathering has prevented the situation from getting out of hand. “As far as intelligence is concerned, we are pretty successful,” he said.

The Defense chief said the Communist Party of the Philippines’ armed wing the New People’s Army and the Abu Sayyaf pose the biggest threat to peace and order. The Abu Sayyaf is believed to have links with the al-Qaeda global terror network of Osama bin Laden.

Teodoro arrived here with President Arroyo Wednesday night to assess the damage wrought by tropical storm “Lando” and to oversee relief operations in affected areas.

Early this week, a powerful blast ripped through the baggage counter of a shopping mall in Kidapawan City.

The blast came barely two weeks after a bomb exploded outside the House of Representatives in Quezon City that killed Basilan Rep. Wahab Akbar and three House employees.

Aside from terrorism, Teodoro said his department is also giving more attention to disaster risk management, considering the country’s vulnerability to strong typhoons and other natural disasters.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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