Cagayan de Oro City on full alert-A A +A
By Bobby Lagsa
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
CAGAYAN DE ORO -- A full alert status has been raised here by the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office (Cocpo) following the shutdown of Zamboanga City after a group of alleged Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members engaged in a firefight with government forces early Monday.
City police director Graciano Mijares said that Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima ordered the nationwide full alert status.
Part of it is putting up checkpoints and closely monitoring some members of the MNLF here to avoid same incident, Senior Superintendent Mijares said.
Mijares admitted there are active MNLF members in Cagayan de Oro, but “are not armed.”
“We are closely monitoring them and watching them. We assure the people that the police are doing their best to instill peace and order in the city," he said.
Meanwhile, the Central Command (Centcom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Central Visayas region is also on alert following the predawn clash in Zamboanga City.
Lt. Jim Alagao, spokesperson of Centcom, said they are intensifying their intelligence-gathering to prevent the same attack from happening in the region.
He said they will monitor coastal barangays in Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental and Siquijor, which the rebels may go in case they planned to escape from Zamboanga City.
Though Centcom Commander Roy Deveraturda hasn’t raised the alert level yet, Alagao said the military units are ready.
“We are also willing to send troops if there’s a request for it,” he said.
Alagao, during the interview, urged the public to report suspicious individuals in their neighborhood to authorities.
As of now, he said they haven’t received intelligence information that MNLF will attack Cebu.
Police reports showed that the MNLF forces tried to raise the MNLF flag at the Zamboanga City Hall to declare its independence.
Nur Misuari, chairman of the MNLF, on July 25, 2013 declared independence during a gathering by the separatist group in Talipao, Sulu.
Misuari was the former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) governor, who declared independence for Palawan, Zamboanga Peninsula, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, and even North Borneo or Sabah, which is controlled by Malaysia.
Cocpo director Mijares said the standoff between MNLF and government forces that so far killed six person and wounded 24 others.
Mijares said they have already identified the MNLF personalities and its camp here, “and we are on top of them.”
“Their recruitment isn’t just in Cagayan de Oro, but Mindanao-wide, but we are monitoring their movement, especially if they have plans to rally, so that we could immediately take action,” he added.
Mijares said the Regional Public Safety Battalion is augmenting the city police force.
Mijares said the police are also coordinating with the AFP and other local government agencies to secure the region.
“Cocpo has been strengthening and implementing tight security measures around the city in coordination with the AFP and neighboring PNP units such as the conduct of checkpoints and target hardening measures in areas where people converge,” Mijares said.
Close intelligence sharing from the police and the military on the movement of MNLF is also being undertaken.
Police regional office spokesperson Superintendent Ronnie Francis Cariaga said that the police have deployed the RPSB across the region especially at the southernmost part of the region in Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte and in Baliangao, Misamis Occidental to contain “spillover” of MNLF troops.
Cariaga added that checkpoints and mobile patrol are deployed to monitor and prevent the entry of possible MNLF forces into the region.
“We are trying to prevent diversionary tactics, if the MNLF forces are pressured by government forces,” Cariaga said.
Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division spokesperson Major Leo Bongosia said that the army is on heightened alert but added that there is no troop movement as Zamboanga peninsula is under the area of the 1st Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.
Bongosia said that the army has been monitoring the outlying areas near the boundary of the 4ID.
In Malacañang, President Benigno Aquino III met with the security cluster and was briefed by the PNP and AFP at noontime Monday.
The government’s official website issued a statement that Aquino has directed that certain steps be taken to ensure that the safety of the civilian population in general be protected.
“At this time, upon the direction of the President, the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government, the Secretary of National Defense, and the AFP Chief of Staff have been sent to Zamboanga City, where they will further ensure that the President’s directives are carried out and will update him accordingly,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.
Lacierda also urged that “in the interest of public safety, we appeal to all Zamboanga City residents to stay alert for official announcements and updates, and to cooperate with the authorities.”
Armm Governor Mujiv Hataman also went to Zamboanga City and that he is contact with Misuari, said ARMM regional administrator Abdulrashid Ladayo Sr.
Call for sobriety
The Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao (InPeace) said the ongoing armed standoff in Zamboanga City following the Moro National Liberation Front’s declaration of independence one month ago “should be handled very carefully by the Philippine government.”
InPeace chair Bishop Felixberto Calang, however, called on the AFP and PNP and the MNLF fighters to adhere to international humanitarian law to protect the rights of civilians and the hors de combat.
“Civilians, whether Christian or Moro, should be spared from the armed conflict; people in the streets and communities of Zamboanga are being traumatized by the conflict. They are protected by international humanitarian law,” Calang, a bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, said.
"But negotiations should now prevail over further armed confrontation to prevent more bloodshed and casualties,” said Calang.
Calang added that the Philippine government must review its compliance with the signed 1996 Peace Agreement with the MNLF.
“The government obviously brushed off the MNLF’s independence declaration this year in Sulu, little did they know that it posed a serious armed warning from a legitimate revolutionary movement that has obviously felt left out from the Framework Agreement of the Bangsamoro (FAB),” Calang said.
“The Moro question remains to be a complex problem and unless the roots of armed revolution are addressed and their right to self-determination is sincerely and genuinely upheld, it will pose as a gnawing wound in Philippine politics,” Calang said.
Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate described the on-going standoff between government forces and the MNLF as a slap on the Aquino administration’s peace policy in Mindanao.
Zarate said all out military approach is not a solution to the current impasse, warning that such an approach may only escalate to other parts of Mindanao and inflict more violence to hapless civilians.
“This is an offshoot of a divisive peace policy that excludes other stakeholders in Mindanao, like the forces of MNLF Chair Nur Misuari,” Zarate said.
"The Aquino administration should seriously examine and put in order its peace policy in Mindanao since it appears now that it is failing as shown by this incident in Zamboanga City involving the MNLF members," he said.
“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,” Zarate added.
Misuari claimed that their forces were in fact harassed by the military resulting to an encounter as he denied they initiated the attack. (With Loui S. Maliza of Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro/Davinci Maru of Sun.Star Cebu/Sunnex)
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 10, 2013.