Thursday, 7 June 2001 - Manila Bulletin

Search, rescue of missing American soldier ordered

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordered yesterday the military to exert all efforts to rescue an American serviceman allegedly abducted by an armed group believed to be members of the New People's Army (NPA) in Pampanga last Tuesday.

Presidential spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao said the President has instructed the Northern Luzon Command of the Armed Forces to locate the US serviceman Lt. JG Scott Washburn.

"The military should exert all its efforts to find him as soon as possible," Tiglao said.

Initial military reports said that Washburn and his alleged abductors have not been sighted yet in the Mt. Pinatubo area in Pampanga.

Washburn is one of the American soldiers participating in the joint military exercises by Filipino and American troops under the Visiting Forces Agreement.

He was reported missing after he and his eight other companions encounted an unidentified armed group believed to be NPA rebels.

Tiglao said military authorities are still verifying the identity of the armed group.

According to Tiglao, Washburn could have gotten lost in the woods and not kidnapped as his eight companions managed to return to their barracks.

The armed group reportedly seized the firearms of the Filipino soldiers and four other American soldiers who were with Washburn. (Ferdie J. Maglalang)

Peace talks

Malacaņang announced yesterday the resumption of peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) abroad this month.

Presidential spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao said preliminary talks with the MILF will be held on June 24 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, or Tripoli, Libya.

He said Libyan Ambassador Salem Adam has offered Tripoli as venue for the talks and that President Arroyo has been informed of the offer.

At the same time, he announced that the second phase of talks with the NDF will resume in Oslo, Norway, on June 10-16.

The GRP peace panel in the talks with the MILF is headed by Presidential Assistant Jesus Dureza while the panel for the NDF is headed by former Justice Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

The peace talks with the NDF will resume on the agenda of socio-economic reforms following the discussion on human rights issues and international humanitarian law last April 27.