Government warns MNLF to end Zambo standoff-A A +A
Thursday, September 12, 2013
MANILA (Updated) -- Malacañang warned on Thursday the rogue Moro rebels in Zamboanga City that the government would not hesitate to use force against them to resolve the crisis there.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said this is now the time for the alleged followers of Nur Misuari, leader of one of the factions of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), to cooperate to resolve peacefully the four-day Zamboanga standoff at the soonest possible time.
"The forces of the State are ready to exercise the resolve of the government. While the government is exhausting all avenues for a peaceful resolution to the situation, let it be clear to those defying us that they should not entertain the illusion that the State will hesitate to use its forces to protect our people," he said in a press briefing.
He said the government will assess the situation in Zamboanga on a day-to-day basis.
"The armed group in Zamboanga can take this statement as it is and let them assess the situation on their own," Lacierda said when asked if his statement was an ultimatum to Misuari's followers.
He also warned the other groups who were trying to take advantage of the situation in Zamboanga, saying they will fail.
He cited the encounter in Basilan on Thursday when some 150 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), ostensibly tried to attack Lamitan City.
The armed forces stopped them, and after a two-hour firefight, were already pursuing the armed men, said Lacierda.
"The BIFF and ASG assumed they could take advantage of the situation. They were wrong. As others who will also make similar attempts will be proven wrong," Lacierda said.
He assured the people of Zamboanga City that the Aquino administration stands in solidarity with them and has been working to ensure their needs are met.
President Benigno Aquino III has directed National Government agencies to attend to the needs of the people of Zamboanga City and of the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi by providing basic supplies through the Department of Transportation and Communications and Department of Trade and Industry, he said.
Lacierda said that Malacañang also asked the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to ensure sufficient supplies of currency in Zamboanga.
"We ask further cooperation from the people of Zamboanga City: we reiterate that there are people relishing this situation and who seek to inflame passions for various reasons. Please understand that rumors of abductions of religious leaders and firefights that did not take place, which are spread through anonymous text messages, aim to take advantage of you. Instead, listen to the authorities, who will give you the truth all the time," he said.
The Palace official also said that the government was pleased with the performance of Zamboanga City Government, particularly of Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar.
"We appeal to those eyeing the coming barangay elections to set aside politics when we are all busy ensuring the safety of our fellow citizens in Zamboanga City," he added.
While Misuari reportedly denied having a hand on the Zamboanga standoff, Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ricky Carandang said that those people involved in the problem were his followers.
The military also believes Misuari “is the one behind these attacks,” citing it has “reliable” intelligence report.
Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala, Armed Forces' information officer, said Habier Malik, one of Misuari’s trusted field commanders leading the standoff in Zamboanga, did not act freely on his own and "his action is deliberate."
"They came here at 1 a.m. (Monday) and fully armed," Zagala said, adding the group of Malik should not have staged the attack if they want to have a political solution to the problem in Mindanao. (SDR/With Bong Garcia/Sunnex)