Philippines. At least 15 people were killed in a bomb
attack on January 4 against a sports hall in the town of
Parang on the island of Mindanao in the south. It was
unclear who was behind the act, but police suspected it was
an attempted murder of the city's Christian mayor.
Peace negotiations began in Norway in February between
the government and the National People's Army (NPA).
However, the NPA refused to announce a ceasefire before
anything had been done to solve the economic and social
problems that caused the conflict.
More than 100 people died when the ferry Superferry 14
started burning on February 26. The authorities were
initially skeptical of information from the Islamist group
Abu Sayyaf that they carried out a bomb attack on the ship.
A later investigation confirmed that it was a bombing act.
In March, two of the six Abu Sayyaf members suspected of the
act were arrested. The six men were indicted in October.
Four of them were then still on the loose.
Presidential and parliamentary elections were held on May
10. For the first time, they got around 8 million
Philippines working abroad to vote. According to
Digopaul, the constitution does not allow the president
to stand for re-election, but because Gloria Arroyo did not
come to power through an election, she got to run for
office. Arroyo was vice president when Joseph Estrada was
forced to step down in 2001. Her main opponent was the
popular movie actor Fernando Poe Jr. In addition to Poe,
there were several candidates from the TV world who shone
the voting movement. Poe was supported by the ousted
President Estrada and, like this, had the most supporters
among the poor population. However, he was a newcomer to
politics and it was unclear which political line he
advocated. Arroyo made promises of care, work and education
Nearly 50 parties voted in the parliamentary elections.
The election campaign became violent and at least ninety
people were killed in connection with the election. First,
well into June, Arroyo was declared victorious in the
presidential election with 40% of the vote, while Poe
received just over 36%. Poe accused Arroyo of electoral
fraud, but most appraisers felt that even though
irregularities had occurred, they were not so extensive as
to affect the election outcome. In the parliamentary
elections, it received a coalition of four parties that
supported Arroyo's own majority in the House of
In July, a Philippines truck driver, Angelo de la Cruz, was
taken hostage by a militant group in Iraq. To save his life,
the government decided to withdraw the fifty soldiers sent
to Iraq a month earlier than planned in support of the
US-led alliance. The decision was criticized by the United
States, Australia and the Iraqi Prime Minister.
Seventeen suspected members of Abu Sayyaf were sentenced
to death in August for kidnapping four care workers on the
island of Basilan in 2001. Four of the men were sentenced in
Formal peace talks with Moro's Islamic Liberation Front
(MILF), which is fighting to establish a Muslim state in
Mindanao, would have resumed in April, but postponed for
various reasons. One condition for the deliberations was
that the MILF would break all ties with the Indonesian
terrorist organization Jemaa Islamiyya, but it was unclear
if that had happened. Both sides accused each other of
violating the ceasefire that closed in 2003. It was hoped
that the talks could begin in December under Malaysian
mediation. The peace talks between the government and the
NPA broke down in September.
Hundreds of people perished and tens of thousands became
homeless when two typhoons hit the country at the end of
November/December. Worst hit were the cities of Real,
Infanta and General Nakar on the island of Luzon. Many were
killed in landslides triggered by the rain. Extensive
logging was said to have exacerbated the disaster. President
Arroyo imposed a temporary halt to all felling, but laid a
large part of the blame on those who had illegally cut down
forests. Representatives of the environmental movement said
that it was the commercial forest companies that did the
At least a dozen people were killed in a bomb attack on a
Christmas market in the port city of General Santos,
Mindanao. It was unclear who was behind the deed.
On December 14, Fernando Poe Jr., the second presidential
election, died in a heart attack, 65 years old. During his
48-year acting career, Poe had starred in over 280 films.