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Arroyo Urges Passage of Anti-Terrorism Law - 2003-03-07


Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is pushing lawmakers to pass an anti-terror law, amid rising incidents of bombings in the south.

Philippine police filed murder charges against more than 100 people for Tuesday's bombing of the Davao International Airport. They include top leaders of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Investigators say the group planned the blast that killed more than 20 people and injured more than 100 others. The attack was the country's deadliest in two years.

Authorities centered their probe on the group, despite an earlier claim of responsibility by another Muslim militant group, the Abu Sayyaf. Police say an MILF rebel killed in the blast provided the key evidence that sealed their case. Davao police chief Isidro Lapena. "What we have established is that the bomber is an MIL," he said. "That's the case being filed, and, of course, we have evidence that would support the case."

Officials say the suspected bomber, Muntazer Sudang, was either on a suicide mission, or the bomb exploded prematurely inside his backpack.

MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu, one of those charged Friday, has denied his group's involvement, and challenged the government to go public with the evidence. He says the government is using the recent violence to destroy peace negotiations.

The government and the MILF agreed to a cease-fire nearly two years ago, and have been holding peace talks. But the truce ended when the military launched an offensive against the rebels last month for allegedly hiding criminal gangs. A series of bomb attacks at public places and power installations followed that fighting.

On Friday, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo urged lawmakers to pass an anti-terror law to help prosecutors and police investigating terrorist acts. The law now pending in Congress would allow authorities to arrest suspected terrorists without warrants, and hold them in detention for 36 hours, without charging them.

Chief government prosecutor Juvencito Zuno told reporters in Davao that an anti-terrorism law would have hastened the investigation of the airport attack.

We have to rush that anti-terrorism law. We need that law very badly, if it provides provisions that the law enforcers could make arrests any time of the day or night, without a warrant of arrest.

Meanwhile, there was another explosion in Mindanao. Several people, including the suspected bomber, were killed late Friday in a blast at a university in the province of Sultan Kudarat.

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