Quote for the Week..

"Why are the country’s political leaders quick to act on amending the Constitution to change nationalistic provisions for the benefit of foreigners or to extend their terms of office but are allergic to amending the Constitution to address the people’s aspirations for self-determination?" - Marvic Leonen,Dean of the UP College of Law, in a keynote address delivered at the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao; March 16-18, 2009 in Davao City, Philippines.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

Army rockets kill 3 children, 3 others in Maguindanao

At least six civilians, including a pregnant woman and three children, were killed on Monday when Philippine army planes strafed and bombed Muslim rebel positions in the south a week after a peace deal collapsed, officials said.

Army helicopters and planes attacked rebel positions near a marshland after renegade members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had fired at helicopters searching for rebels on the southern island of Mindanao, army officials said.

Musib Uy Tan, a local official, told reporters the civilians had been on their way to a temporary shelter area when their boat was hit by rockets fired from helicopter gunships.

"The boat was a total wreck," Tan said, adding that the bodies of a 53-year old farmer and his family, including a pregnant 17-year old girl, had been pulled from the water.

Colonel Marlou Salazar, an army brigade commander, said he was unaware of civilian casualties but reported that seven MILF rebels had been killed in the air strikes.

But army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Julieto Ando said collateral damage in armed encounters was possible.

"We're investigating that incident now," Ando told reporters.

Earlier on Monday, a crude bomb went off in a public market in Mindanao's Isulan town while another was defused near a hospital in nearby Tacurong City. Both are Catholic-dominated areas and thus potential MILF targets.

Identical bombs

"Our investigators believed it was supposed to go off at the same time as the second bomb because the two explosive devices were almost identical," Major Armand Rico, another military spokesman, told reporters. "They were made from 81mm mortar rounds and remotely detonated by a cellphone."

Military chief General Alexander Yano warned of more bombings in Catholic-dominated areas in Mindanao even as fighting subsided since Ramadan started last week. He said the rebels had broken into smaller groups to avoid head-on confrontations.

More than 200 people, including 21 soldiers, were killed in August in fighting between troops and renegade members of the MILF blamed for attacking Christian-majority southern towns after the peace deal fell apart.

The government has been in on-off talks with the MILF since 1997 to end a rebellion that has killed 120,000 people and stunted growth in a region said to be sitting on huge deposits of minerals, oil and natural gas.

About half a million people have been displaced by fighting since Aug. 18 as troops bombed and shelled rebel positions.

On Monday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) asked for more donations so it could continue providing food to around 70,000 people at refugee camps on Mindanao, adding that there could be more uncertainty after the end of Ramadan.(MANNY MOGATO; Reuters)

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