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ZAMBOANGA CITY – Mayor Beng Climaco has banned any rally of the Moro National Liberation Front in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines and ordered authorities to stay alert following a recent plenum by the former rebel group in nearby Sulu province.

Climaco met with senior police and military officials and discussed with them on how to secure Zamboanga which had been attacked twice by MNLF rebels despite a peace accord with manila in September 1996.

She security forces have been alerted on possibility that some individuals may try to hold so-called peace rallies or gathering in Zamboanga. She said such rallies will not be allowed in the as this might disturb Zamboanga anew.

“I am giving you a categorical no, you must not disturb Zamboanga anymore. If you want to come up with your rally, make it in your area, Zamboanga will not welcome a rally by MNLF, not at this time because you still have to be accountable with the killings and devastations we are suffering from,” Climaco said.

Nur Misuari, chieftain of the MNLF, is wanted by authorities after his forces attacked Zamboanga City – first in 2001 and the second was in 2013 – that left over 300 people dead and wounded in three weeks of street battles.

“The destruction wrought by the 2013 siege continues to linger, as internally displaced persons – both Muslims, Christians and Lumads, most of whom are those who eluded the conflicts in Sulu and Basilan – have suffered the brunt of the MNLF attack in Zamboanga three years ago,” Climaco said.

She said MNLF members had been intercepted in Zamboanga on their way to attend the January 8 plenum in Sulu. “The monitoring of these individuals continues until today even as we sleep the patrol continues our brave and gallant police and soldiers in uniform including the Coast Guard – the land, air and sea assets are all monitoring for the safety and security of Zamboanga,” Climaco said.

But many MNLF members are residing in Zamboanga and during the siege many of them, including women, had joined the fighting that displaced over 120,000 people.

In Sulu, security forces have failed to arrest Misuari following a massive show of force by the MNLF and Abu Sayyaf rebels who attended the plenum called by the ageing leader in Indanan town to discuss the upcoming Islamic Inter-Parliamentary Union and summit by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation this year.

Misuari is reportedly planning to attend the summit despite a string of criminal charges filed by authorities against him and about 300 others who took part in the siege of Zamboanga. The plenum forced the military to declare a red alert status in Sulu for fear the MNLF and Abu Sayyaf may launch a surprise attack on government targets.

Misuari signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996 ending decades of bloody war. After the peace agreement was signed, Misuari became the governor of the Muslim autonomous region. But despite the peace accord, there was a widespread disillusionment with the weak autonomy they were granted.

Under the peace agreement, Manila would have to provide a mini-Marshal Plan to spur economic development in Muslim areas in the south and livelihood and housing assistance to tens of thousands of former rebels to uplift their poor living standards.

In 2001, Misuari’s loyal forces and former MNLF rebels who joined the Philippine Army following the September 1996 peace deal with Manila, attacked a key military base in Jolo town and civilian targets in Zamboanga City in an effort to stop the government from calling an election in the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao where Misuari was then the governor.

Misuari then escaped by boat to Malaysia, where he had been arrested and deported to the Philippines and was eventually pardoned and released by President Gloria Arroyo in exchange for MNLF support to her election bid as well as her allies in the Senate and Congress in 2004. He also ran thrice for governor in Sulu even while under detention, but lost miserably. (Mindanao Examiner)

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