DOJ tasked to come up with strong case vs Misuari-A A +A
Friday, September 13, 2013
ZAMBOANGA CITY -- President Benigno Aquino III said the government is now working on a strong case against Nur Misuari and his supporters who were allegedly behind the ongoing standoff in this city.
The standoff entered its fifth day Friday, and fighting erupted anew hours after a “localize” ceasefire took effect to pave the way for a dialogue between the government and the Misuari-led faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who have been holed up in some coastal villages here.
The fighting on Friday was coupled by three fire incidents that broke out one after the other.
Aquino, in an interview here, said he wanted to ensure that whatever case would be filed against Misuari and his followers this time would not be dismissed.
Misuari was arrested in the early 2000 for staging an attack in Jolo, Sulu. Aquino said he got a report on Friday saying cases filed against the MNLF founding leader before were dismissed because of lack of evidence.
"Ini-imbestigahan lahat ng mga actuations ni Misuari and others (We’ve been studying all their actuations). From the start of the crisis, inatasan natin si Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima na tingnan kung ano ang actual na may pruweba tayo ng pinaggagawa nila (We tasked Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to look for proof on what they’ve been doing)," Aquino said.
He said his administration does not want to commit similar mistakes and wants to ensure that anyone responsible in the Zamboanga City mayhem will be held accountable.
The President flew to this city Friday morning to personally assess the situation. He said he also wanted to make sure that the people affected by the conflict receive government assistance and care.
Malacañang said earlier that the government would not hesitate to use force to end the standoff, which started Monday, September 9, when police and military blocked the rebels who wanted to march toward the city hall, where they plan to erect their flag to declare independence.
The number of casualties in the standoff has increased to seven, while 55 were wounded since Monday.
But according to military reports, at least 18 people were killed in the sporadic fighting.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brigadier General Domingo Tutaan said in a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo in Manila that the bulk of fatalities are from the MNLF, which incurred 11 deaths.
Tutaan said two soldiers died in the conflict, including a former MNLF fighter who was integrated into the AFP in 1998 as part of the 1996 peace agreement signed by the government and the MNLF.
He said three policemen and two civilians also died since Monday.
On Friday, 11 people were wounded when an M-203 grenade coming the rebels' position landed beside them while they were seated behind a concrete structure in front of the National Statistics Office in the village of Sta. Catalina.
Five of the wounded are volunteers of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) who were stationed along Dr. Evangelista Street, Sta. Catalina, where a gunfight was ongoing nearby at the time of the incident.
Tutaan said sporadic sniper fires were observed coming from the MNLF forces in Zamboanga City Friday morning.
"We are still there, containing them (MNLF men)," he said.
Over 2,000 soldiers and policemen are said to be involved in addressing the conflict in Zamboanga City.
Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, who chairs the Crisis Management Committee, said a "localize" ceasefire took effect shortly before midnight Thursday to pave the way for the negotiations for the safe release of the more or less 100 hostages that are still in the hands of the MNLF rebels.
The rebels have been led by Habier Malik, one of the trusted field commanders of Misuari.
With the ongoing standoff, the CMC implemented Friday forced evacuation in the affected areas to ensure the safety of the civilians.
Among the affected villages are Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalina, Talon-Talon, Mampang, and Rio Hondo. (SDR/Bong Garcia/VR/Sunnex)