Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah visits Philippines

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, arrived in the Philippines last Thursday for a three-day state visit, for this year's 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Brunei.

Sultan Bolkiah granted President Macapagal-Arroyo’s request for more observers during bilateral talks at the Presidential Security Group compound in Malacañang.

“They are prepared to increase the number of peace monitors from Brunei. I think there are now about 10. They can go up to about 30,” Foreign Undersecretary Esteban Conejos told reporters.

Members of the international monitoring team from Malaysia, Brunei, Japan and Libya flew back home after their term expired on Nov. 30 last year.

Renewing their mandate will be on the agenda of informal talks that the government is hoping to restart with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front following last year’s setback on the scuttled expanded territory deal.

After the arrival honors for the visiting head of state, Ms Arroyo sat down for a bilateral meeting with Bolkiah, where she relayed her request for a bigger contingent of peace monitors.

Ms Arroyo was also able to convince Bolkiah to commute the death sentence of an overseas Filipino worker to life imprisonment.

“Through the intercession of the President, the Sultan right then and there said he’s going to commute the sentence of Edgar Puzon,” Conejos told reporters.

Puzon was sentenced to death by the Brunei High Court in 2003 for the fatal stabbing of his Filipino girlfriend Vilma Misal, a decision affirmed by the Court of Appeals four years later.

In May 2003, Puzon walked into a restaurant and attacked Misal, then working as a waitress, stabbing her twice. He also tried to stab himself, but he was subdued before he could further inflict injuries on himself.

Ms Arroyo conferred the Order of Lakandula with the rank of Grand Supremo on Bolkiah in recognition of his key role in boosting bilateral cooperation between the two countries.


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