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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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

UN food truck attacked in Lanao; 1 dead

ILIGAN CITY – Unidentified gunmen ambushed a truck contracted by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to deliver food aid in Lanao del Sur Sunday, killing a driver’s aide.

In a press statement, WFP country director Stephen Anderson said the incident happened Sunday evening in Barangay Inoma in Calanogas town.

“WFP strongly deplores the senseless loss of life of an individual who was assisting in the delivery of humanitarian assistance,” Anderson said.

The truck was on its way back to WFP’s warehouse in Cotabato and was already empty when the incident occurred. Two other people in the vehicle were unhurt.

Anderson added that the WFP was working with all concerned government authorities in the investigation of the attack.

He noted that since 2006 when it started providing food support to people displaced by armed conflict in Mindanao, they have encountered “a minimum of security incidents.”

However, he acknowledged that “delivering emergency food assistance in a conflict zone is beset with risks” well known to them.

The agency has been providing food aid to evacuees of the recent skirmishes between government troops and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

WFP official Patricia Artadi-Facultad said the WFP has been told the area where the attack took place was prone to highway robberies.

She said that the truck was traveling alone without a Philippine military escort, as is standard procedure. She said it was the first time an aid worker contracted by the U.N. was killed in the country.

She said, however, that aid operations would continue despite the shooting.

WFP has been supplying tons of rice to about 300,000 Filipinos in Mindanao who fled their homes at the height of fighting in August, when Muslim rebels went on a bloody rampage in the Lanao communities to protest the scrapping of a preliminary peace deal.

The agreement to expand an existing Muslim autonomous region was nullified by the Supreme Court acting on a petition by Christian politicians.

The government has subsequently put peace talks on hold, although it recently indicated it was ready to restart negotiations.

The rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have been fighting for self-rule in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation’s south for decades.

The ambush was a robbery rather than the work of Muslim separatists, the regional military commander said Tuesday.

“There is no involvement by the MILF in the attack,” Colonel Rey Ardo, head of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade, told AFP.

“The motive was just plain robbery.”

Suspicion swiftly fell on the MILF which has been active in the area since August when the Supreme Court ruled against a peace proposal which would have given Muslims their own state.

Ardo said the area where the truck was driving was known to be inhabited by bandit groups who prey on vehicles, particularly those transporting food. (AP; AFP; Ryan D. Rosauro)

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