MALACANANG confirmed Saturday the conclusion of the military operations in Zamboanga City against the followers of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari following the announcement of the defense department that the MNLF-Misuari faction is now a "defeated force."
In an interview over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Palace has always maintained that it was up to the leaders on the ground when to declare the conclusion of the military operations.
"We were dealing with the situation that it will be the officials on the ground who will be making the announcement based on their assessment. Remember that our task from Day One is to ensure the safety of the hostages that were taken; to ensure their safe recovery, as well as to get civilians out of harm’s way and that has already been accomplished," she said.
While the Zamboanga crisis was over after the rescue of the remaining hostages, Gazmin has said that operations continue against the group of Habier Malik, one of Misuari's commanders responsible in the standoff.
Valte also said the P3.89 billion allocation announced by the President for the reconstruction of Zamboanga City after the widespread devastation.
She said this will include the rebuilding of homes of families who lost their houses to the heavy fighting between the government forces and the MNLF.
It was reported that Vice President Jejomar Binay said they were drafting a Public Partner Partnership for the housing projects in Zamboanga City to help the people restart their lives.
With regard to calls by some groups to intensify government efforts to protect children in the evacuation centers, Valte said different government agencies are working together to address the concern.
Recent reports said there are cases of sexual assault, prostitution, and the trafficking of children in evacuations centers in Zamboanga City.
"We acted swiftly, as well as the local government in that case of the six-year-old that was allegedly molested by a family member in the evacuation center. The action there was very swift and, in fact, the suspect is already under the legal process," Valte said.
"The DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), along with other agencies on the ground, are working to ensure that the children there, not just for their safety physically, but also the psychological state ng ating mga kabataan na nandoon," she added.
The Department of Education is also a major partner, Valte said, noting that the department started training teachers to enable them to guide their students in light of the Zamboanga City situation. (SDR/Sunnex)