ZAMBOANGA MAYOR BENG Climaco has stood firm in disallowing any activities here of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), especially the faction of Nur Misuari, whose loyal forces attacked the city in two separate occasions in the last 2 decades.
Just recently, a letter purportedly signed by Mukisin Taguid-id and Jubail Kamlian asking the local government for a permit to allow about 500 MNLF members and supporters to gather here for a peace and federalism forum, and even invited Climaco to be one of their honored guests.
Climaco rejected the MNLF request and said she will not issue any permit to Taguid-id and Kamlian following the recommendation of the police and military authorities.
“Upon recommendation by the security forces, the city government of Zamboanga has denied the request of the Moro National Liberation Front for a permit to conduct a forum on peace process and federalism,” she said. The forum was supposed to take place on October 30.
Capt. Edwin Duco, a police spokesman, has confirmed Climaco’s statement and said they have recommended to the local government not to issue any permit that would allow the forum. “We recommended to the City Government to deny and disapprove the request for a permit,” he said, adding, the local police force and the military-led Joint Task Force Zamboanga had immediately convened to assess the MNLF request.
“We have been informed that there are false rumors circulating through SMS and social media platforms about the MNLF. The Office of the Chairman (Nur Misuari) of the MNLF Central Committee reiterates that it has no involvement in a since-cancelled forum that was to be held in Zamboanga City on Wednesday, 30th of October.”
“In connection with this, some have spread misinformation of a threat of confrontation between the MNLF and local government forces if the request for the permit of the said event would be denied. These are unfounded accusations and are not true. Please be vigilant and help stop the spread of lies that are causing undue panic and fear,” it said.
Misuari was reported to have ordered all MNLF units, State and National Commands, including others to refrain from any provocative acts, saying, the MNLF now has engaged in peace process.
Climaco has previously rejected similar requests by the MNLF to hold its meetings here and told the former rebel group to be “sensitive and perceptive of the fact that the scars of the September 9, 2013 Zamboanga siege caused by the MNLF remain unhealed and fresh in the hearts and minds of Zamboanguenos.”
The mayor was referring to the attack by the MNLF here that resulted to the deaths of dozens of innocent civilians and the destruction it left, including the tens of thousands of families displaced by the violence.
Six years after deadly siege by hundreds of armed MNLF members, residents here are still crying for justice which remains elusive for the victims of the attack. Climaco also set September 9 as a “Special Day of Remembrance” in honor of all those who perished in the siege that lasted for 3 weeks.
Supporters of Misuari, the MNLF chairman, attacked Zamboanga after declaring independence and their failed attempt to raise the Bangsamoro Republik flag at City Hall. The siege displaced over 100,000 people and affected the economies of Basilan and Sulu which are dependent on Zamboanga for their trades and goods. Misuari has publicly denied involvement in the siege of Zamboanga.
In 2016, Climaco – who stood firm against the MNLF during the entire period of the crisis – has banned any so-called peace rally or gathering of the MNLF members in Zamboanga City.
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 in the past.
“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,” she said.
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, he said 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. Cabatangan It was the second attack by MNLF in the past decade.
In November 2001, hundreds of MNLF members occupied the Cabatangan Complex and held hostage dozens of civilians, including children; and another group also attacked a military base in Sulu province in an effort to stop the elections in the Muslim autonomous region after Misuari was ousted as governor.
More than 100 people were killed in the fighting and in the end, then Mayor Maria Clara Lobregat allowed the attackers to leave Zamboanga in exchange for the hostages.
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 several times for governor in Sulu even while under detention, but lost.
Now, President Rodrigo Duterte said he wanted to resume the peace process with Misuari and ordered police and military not to arrest the MNLF chieftain. (Zamboanga Post)
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