FILIPINOS ON GUAM WORRY ABOUT THEIR LOVED ONES

By Katie Worth

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, July 28) - Filipino nationals on Guam watched the developments of a military standoff in Manila with concern yesterday, many of them worried about the safety of loved ones and the future of their homeland.

About 200 rebel soldiers stormed the Glorietta complex on Sunday and wired it with explosives, but they agreed to enter negotiations over their grievances after President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo set deadlines for their surrender.

At 6:30 yesterday evening, a half-hour before the first deadline Arroyo imposed on the rogue soldiers to leave their compound in the Manila commercial center, the Philippine Consul General to Guam, Bayani Mercado, said he was still hopeful the situation could be resolved without bloodshed.

"We're praying that it's resolved peacefully," he said. "The rebel soldiers apparently have been acting in a proper manner -- they have let out the tourists staying at the hotels which is something positive. That means they don't want to harm the bystanders."

He said he didn't think the problem would escalate to a larger coup attempt.

"So far, everything seems to be normal outside that area. The communication lines are open, the airlines are open, the phone lines are open," Mercado said. "Apparently this is only a small group of 60 persons, and the latest we heard from Manila, they do not enjoy popular support."

Mercado said the crisis would probably affect the country's economy for a while.

"I guess for the next few weeks it will affect the Philippine peso. It will go down, but, just like in previous years, we have shown that we can rebound from any crisis," he said.

Mixed opinions

Guam residents of Philippine heritage had varying opinions about whether a standoff of this nature could be successful, and whether the rebels' accusations of corruption are founded.

Marilyn Palarca, 38, of Barrigada, has lived on Guam for 17 years. She said she doubts the rogue soldiers' accusations of the government selling arms to the rebels in the southern Philippines are accurate.

"I don't think so," she said. "I think the guns come from off island, from Arab nations, funded by people like Saddam Hussein."

Palarca's husband, Mateo, 50, said he doesn't consider Arroyo corrupt.

"She's trying to clear out the corruption," he said. "Maybe the people around her are corrupt, but not her."

The Philippines has been in a state of turmoil throughout Arroyo's term. The armed forces have fought rebellions by Islamic separatists and communist guerrillas while combating high-profile abductions by the Islamic group Abu Sayyaf and other kidnap-for-ransom gangs.

Rogue soldiers charged that the government was colluding with the rebels to obtain increased aid from the United States and to set the stage for martial law.

Yigo resident Eddie Garcia, 64, has lived on Guam for more than 50 years, but follows politics in the Philippines. He said the solution to the problem is to finally end the war against the Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines.

"They need to go down and get those rebels out permanently and get rid of them so the island can develop," he said.

Jun Yaneza, 71, of Yigo said he didn't think the rogue soldiers had enough power to force Arroyo out of office.

"No way can (the soldiers) win," he said. "At most, they've only got 50 soldiers, and only 10 are officers. ... How can you win a battle like that?"

He recalled a similar situation in the late 1980s when he was still living in the Philippines and rebels took over a hotel in Manila. He said the police cut off the power and water at the hotel and the rebels surrendered a few days later.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

July 28, 2003

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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