South Mindanao still on heightened alert-A A +A
Monday, September 16, 2013
A WEEK since the standoff in Zamboanga City, military authorities in Southern Mindanao assured that the possibility of a spillover happening here is nil.
But authorities are not letting their guards down as the region is still in heightened alert until such time that the standoff in Zamboanga is over.
Major General Ariel Bernardo, 10th Infantry Division commander, said that their line of communications with key Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leaders in the regions of Davao and Sarangani is open and that they are in constant coordination with them since last week.
"We are sustaining our engagement with them with their assurances that there will be no movement whatsoever from their side to support the Zamboanga MNLF renegade or misguided group and they will even police or guard their own ranks to help maintain the peace, recognizing also the probability of some shadowy/armed groups taking advantage of the ongoing Zambo standoff to foment violence, having validated some disinformation circulating around to add to the chaos and confusion or worst fuel up the ongoing conflict in Zamboanga," Bernardo said.
Bernardo said they are now undertaking pro-active measures to deter, dissuade, and preempt untoward incidents from happening. He also appealed to the people to be also on alert and report whatever unusual things that would come to their attention.
Last week, the MNLF and the Philippine Army conducted dialogues in Sarangani and Davao City.
In Sarangani, Governor Steve Chiongbian presided over the peace forum attended by political director of the MNLF Central Committee Winnie Hadjirul, MNLF spokesperson Atty. Emmanuel Fontanilla, Vice Mayor Uttoh Salem Cutan of Maasim, and police and military officials in the province.
The attendees signed a manifesto of commitment declaring that the MNLF, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and the local government unit of Sarangani are united in the common fundamental commitment to promote the culture of peace.
In Davao City, Bernardo also met with several MNLF commanders in Southern Mindanao.
Both the Army and the local MNLF leaders agreed that they will coordinate with each other in preventing a similar incident like that in Zamboanga City from happening.
MNLF Davao City state chair Abdul Aziz Olamit, meanwhile, expressed concern on some sectors who are trying to put the MNLF in a bad light. He revealed that text message have recently circulated claiming that MNLF members in Southern Mindanao are gearing up to reinforce their comrades in Zamboanga City.
Olamit said the text message is not true. The MNLF leaders in the region are one in saying that they are for peace.
Bernardo also urged the MNLF to take part in the peace process as everyone's participation is needed to fully achieve peace in Mindanao.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on September 16, 2013.