RP rebels cloud Independence Day celebrations

MANILA, Reuters

The Philippines marked the 103rd anniversary of independence from Spanish colonial rule on Tuesday with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo hailing as a citizens’ victory the January protests that helped her gain power. But as she praised the thousands who took part in the “people power” protests that led to the fall of former President Joseph Estrada, Abu Sayyaf Muslim rebels served up another reminder of the country’s law and order woes.

“This year’s Philippine Independence Day should be extra meaningful in the light of these modern day victories in our history,” Arroyo said, referring to the protests, the subsequent suppression of riots against her government and success in legislative elections.

“All these once more reaffirm the Filipinos’ determination to live as a free, democratic and dignified nation,” Arroyo said in a televised national address.

“I call upon all Filipinos everywhere to help in rebuilding our nation towards greater peace, progress and prosperity,” she said.

But the Independence Day celebrations were clouded by reports that Muslim separatist Abu Sayyaf rebels had executed one of their American hostages, Guillermo Sobero of Corona in California.

Arroyo, who assumed the presidency from Estrada, urged the people to unite and emulate the efforts of the country’s liberators to help restore the country’s fortunes.