Gonzales skips Davao security briefing

The announcement was made when members of the Association of Regional Executives of National Government Agencies (ARENA) were already at the Department of Public Works and Highways, venue of Gonzales’s scheduled presentation.

The briefing came in the heels of encounters between government forces and the New Peoples Army in Southeastern Mindanao.

Efren Elbanbuena, Philippine Information Agency regional director, said Gonzales’s staff called, saying he was ill. Elbanbuena was the master of ceremonies in the gathering.

A text advisory sent to reporters, however, said the press conference with Gonzales was cancelled because he was called to Malacañang.

Alberto Sipaco, Commission on Human Rights regional director who broke the news at the gathering, said Gonzales’s staff called up saying the official was already in the airport when he suffered stomach ache and vomiting.

Gonzales was expected to grace ARENA's flag ceremony earlier and to give a lecture on the state of national security affairs as part of the group's lecture series program.

Instead, Rodolfo Rasul, regional director of the Department of Interior and Local Government, gave another lecture (see related story).

Elbanbuena said it could have been the first briefing on security the executives could get from the national government on the country's security situation.

He said it was intended for the national line agencies in the region to have a common approach at national security, which is part of President Arroyo's priority programs.

He told MindaNews the briefing was scheduled so that the regional officials could also know what is going on in the Arroyo administration's anti-terrorism campaign.

Elbanbuena said they are expecting a future date for Gonzales to come over for the briefing, adding that officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines could not give the briefing to their civilian counterparts.