Arroyo declares Jemaah Islamiyah as Philippines' top security threat

By Channel NewsAsia's Philippines Bureau Chief Twink Macaraig

MANILA : The Philippines government has elevated regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah to the top of its order of battle.

The move comes after officials announced the arrest of Indonesian Taufik Rifqi, the JI's alleged finance man in Mindanao, and revealed an ongoing manhunt for 40 other JI operatives.

President Gloria Arroyo crowed about the Philippines' election to the United Nations Security Council by an overwhelming vote, saying it showed the support, respect and prestige the country had gained in the international community.

"This is because of the Filipinos' courage and sacrifice in the fight against terrorism, poverty and in our willingness to work with other nations in promulgating international consensus, multilateral peacekeeping and the rule of law," she said.

Mrs Arroyo said that enhanced cooperation with the country's allies also prompted the decision to prioritise the Jemaah Islamiyah as the Philippines' biggest security threat, after assessments downgraded the Abu Sayaf's strength and prospects for peace talks with the MILF improved.

The arrest of one of JI's top leaders in Mindanao helped identify some 40 of his cohorts operating in the country.

Major developments are happening simultaneously for the Arroyo administration - admission to the UN security council, back-to-back arrests of foreign terrorists, impeachment of the Supreme Court's Chief Justice.

But the presidential race still takes centre stage.

The talk of the town is the supposed imminent candidacy by a close friend of deposed president Joseph Estrada, the action superstar Fernando Poe Jr.

Mrs Arroyo refused to entertain questions about her chances against others, preferring to stick to issues, not focus on personalities.

"I gained the experience and insight to shape effective political, economic, and social policies, fight corruption through positive and negative measures, to control terrorism wielding domestic programs and international cooperation, to combine good governance, fiscal discipline and macroeconomic stability," she said.

But by stressing the value of what she had learned as President the last two years, Mrs Arroyo was also pointing out that hers was experience that none of her opponents could claim to have. - CNA

24/10/2003

Bron : Channel News Asia

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