AUTONOMOUS Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has been placed under alert status following the siege of members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) of four villages of Zamboanga City since early morning today, Monday (September 9).
Governor Mujiv S. Hataman has advised authorities and local government units in the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi to heighten security in their respective areas and help guard against the movement of suspicious groups.
Around 100 armed members of MNLF under the command of chair Nur Misuari, the Moro group that signed a peace agreement with the Philippine government in 1996, are reportedly holding 20 civilians as hostages.
As of 2:00 p.m., Colonel Adrelino Colina, head of TF Zamboanga, in a radio interview said, there were no movements from the side of the MNLF.
“There is an observed stalemate on the side of the MNLF,” said Colina.
And he added: “Ang kailangan ngayon ay pag-uusap (What needs to be done is to talk to them).”
Before this, Misuari declared Mindanao independence last month.
Hataman condemned the siege.
“We (also) condemn in the strongest possible terms this act of violence and the use of some people as human shield while we continue to pray for the safety of civilians in this unfortunate incident,” Hataman said.
Mindanao lawmaker Carlos Isagani Zarate, of Bayan Muna partylist, has appealed for sobriety to both the MNLF and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as “they reached a military standoff in Zamboanga City today and ensure the safety of the civilians.”
Zarate also called on both forces to adhere to the international humanitarian law in their engagement to ensure the safety of the civilians held by the MNLF.
More than 300 civilians from four villages of Zamboanga City have left their homes following firefight between the MNLF and soldiers.
Zarate also called on the President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to “review its peace track with the MNLF and answer questions as to what led the MNLF to mount a military presence in Zamboanga City and MNLF chair Professor Nur Misuari’s announcement last month for Mindanao independence.”
Zarate said the Philippine government cannot ignore Misuari and the MNLF while negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)–a group that broke out from MNLF when it signed peace with the government in 1996.
“The peace policy of President Aquino should not be divisive and exclusive. It should not leave out a legitimate group just to appease another group. This is no way of talking peace in Mindanao,” said Zarate.
Zarate says that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) has a lot to answer in the coming budget deliberation–“for while it reports progress in the peace negotiation, the situation on the ground tells otherwise.”
Zarate said the government has terminated negotiations with the MNLF and relegated it to mere discussions on implementation review of the 1996 GPH-MNLF Final Peace Agreement by the tripartite party facilitated by Indonesia as the chair of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) peace committee in Southern Philippines and including both GPH and MNLF panels. | NewsDesk