By JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA
Davao City – Local leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) claimed counterparts in Zamboanga City intended to stage a rally on Monday, and not a siege as widely reported, when they were engaged in a gun battle with government troops that left 30 casualties, including four civilians.
Rolando Olamit, chair of MNLF Davao said that MNLF forces gathered on Zamboanga to conduct a consultation on the Bangsamoro Republik.
“Spekulasyon nako, tuyo nila konsultasyon lang, pero mga awtoridad didto ni-react mao nisukol na lang siguro, (My speculation is that they intended to hold a consultation, but they were probably forced to fight back after the authorities reacted to their presence),” Olamit told Davao Today.
MNLF spokesperson Emmanuel Fontanilla shared Olamit’s sentiments saying MNLF chair Nur Misuari intended to stage a “peaceful rally” on his call for Bangsamoro independence.
Fontanilla said less than a hundred MNLF troops composed Misuari’s “advance party” who arrived in the coastal Barangay Sta. Catalina early dawn on Monday when they were attacked by government troops.
Zamboanga City mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco, in an official statement posted in her Facebook page said that a policeman and a navy soldier, and four civilians were killed in the battle, while 24 others were wounded.
Climaco said there are “more” reported on the “enemy side.”
A source in Zamboanga City told Davao Today that all residents in Sta. Catalina and Sta. Barbara villages have evacuated following the military’s “full operations” against the MNLF.
Olamit said MNLF “is not provoking war” but intends to pursue the re-opening of talks on the Final Peace Agreement.
“Ang mga igsoon nato nangayo og peaceful rally, wala man gitugotan. Kinahanglan pa ba naay dugo aron paminawon ta? (Our brothers wanted to mount a peaceful rally but they were not granted. Do we need to see bloodshed so that our voices are heard?)” Olamit asked.
But he added that they are ready to face arrest along with Misuari if they will be charged over this incident.
“Andam ta, pero sa usab, peaceful ta. (We are ready, but again I said we want peace),” said Olamit.
Misuari has declared last October a “Bangsamoro Republik” with Davao City as its capital.
The MNLF leader claimed the Philippine government “abrogated” the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the government and MNLF with the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Misuari wanted to re-open the talks on the FPA with the United Nations as an observer.
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte also criticized the government peace panel for not holding the talks with Moro armed groups simultaneously.
“When they (the peace panel) asked for my input (on the talks), I told them don’t deal with the MILF and then marginalize the MNLF because you are not done with them,” Duterte said.
Bayan Muna representative Atty. Carlos Zarate also argued that “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 urged Aquino to review its “peace track with the MNLF” and to find the cause of what may have led the MNLF “to mount a military presence in Zamboanga City.”
The Mindanao lawmaker also called on the MNLF and the government to exercise “sobriety” and to adhere to international humanitarian law to protect the civilians. (John Rizle Saligumba/davaotoday.com)mnlf, Moro National Liberation Front, nur misuari, Peace Process, zambo, Zamboanga conflict, zamboanga crisis, Zamboanga MNLF-AFP tension