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Elections in RP successful – US

by AJLPP Saturday, May. 26, 2007 at 2:58 PM
ajlpp_usa@hotmail.com 213-241-006 337 Glendle Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

A US State Department official said yesterday the May 14 elections were generally successful despite reports of violence and fraud. “I know there have been some problems with violence. But I would say overall the elections have been very successful and a real sign that the Philippines has a very well-developed democracy. It has never been an easy process,” Christopher Hill, US State Department assistant secretary for East Asia and the Pacific, said over Radyo ng Bayan. Hill’s observation followed an earlier statement of concern from the US Embassy in Manila on reports of violence in many parts of the country during the elections.

AJLPP Election Update No. 3

Elections in RP successful – US

By Pia Lee-Brago and Roel Pareño
Saturday, May 26, 2007

Manila---A US State Department official said yesterday the May 14 elections were generally successful despite reports of violence and fraud.

“I know there have been some problems with violence. But I would say overall the elections have been very successful and a real sign that the Philippines has a very well-developed democracy. It has never been an easy process,” Christopher Hill, US State Department assistant secretary for East Asia and the Pacific, said over Radyo ng Bayan.

Hill’s observation followed an earlier statement of concern from the US Embassy in Manila on reports of violence in many parts of the country during the elections.

Press Attaché Matthew Lussenhop said 86 election observers from the embassy had been deployed across the country but they have yet to release an assessment on the conduct of the elections.

He said the US government wanted the Philippine elections to be fair, honest and peaceful.

US troops needed

Hill also defended the presence of US troops in some areas in Mindanao saying they are needed for counter-terrorism and that they are proof of Washington’s commitment to help in the economic development of Mindanao.

“We are providing military assistance. We’re providing assistance to help in the economic development in some of these areas specially in the South,” Hill said.

“We have a number of people working along with Filipino counterparts to develop educational opportunities, job opportunities. These keep people away from terrorism,” he added.

“We are working on the economic support and assistance. It’s important for our forces to be there to help and train Filipino forces but it’s also important to be together,” the State Department official explained.

“This is a problem that cannot be defeated only in the Philippines. It has to be defeated everywhere. We all have a role to play,” Hill said.

Hill also praised the Philippine government for its anti-terror efforts, which, he stressed, also benefited the whole of Southeast Asia.

As current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Hill said the Philippines tackled the issue of international terrorism very meaningfully.

“The Philippines has done so much work, so much great work in combating terrorism not only in Mindanao area but also dealing with the problem of economic development so we really feel it’s very important for us to be shoulder to shoulder with our Filipino friends and allies in this process,” Hill said.

A 2006 State Department annual country report on terrorism said that although the Philippines made significant breakthroughs in its anti-terrorism campaign, steps should be made to cut terror funding, such as strengthening the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

“Despite some successes, major evidentiary and procedural obstacles in the Philippines continued to hinder the building of effective terrorism cases,” the report stated.

“A large and growing case backlog and the absence of consistent trials against terrorists were impediments to the prosecution of suspected terrorists,” it added.

Naval blockade to continue

The Philippine Navy will continue its blockade of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi during the Philippine-US joint naval exercises next month off Zamboanga to prevent remnants of the Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf from escaping.

“We will not disturb the operation of our assets in Sulu,” Rear Adm. Emilio Marayag, chief of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) Combined Command, said referring to the patrol boats and gunboats deployed in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

The military is still hunting Dulmatin, one of the two principal suspects in the 2002 Bali bombing which killed more than 200 people mostly Western tourists.

The naval exercise, which is part of the US-RP Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) will formally start on May 31. About 2,500 American and Filipino sailors and marines will be involved in the maneuver.

Marayag said US navy under Rear Admiral Bill Burk, head of the US

Naval Task Force 73, will be deploying three of his command’s ships – USS Harpers Ferry from Sasebo, Japan; the USS Ford from Everett, Washington, and the USS Jarrett from San Diego, California. He said three Philippine Navy ships will join the exercise.

“The purpose of the exercise is to improve the capability but without necessarily destructing the current operation,” Marayag added. The joint exercise, he said, will also involve humanitarian and civic works. — with Renee Puno

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