THE DUTERTE GOVERNMENT has warned the public against people organizing “unauthorized” MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) peace and federalism forum following a failed meeting in Zamboanga City.
Carlito Galvez, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, said the foiled meeting was not authorized either by the national government or Nur Misuari, the MNLF chairman. “To set the record straight, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) has not authorized any of these personalities or their organizations to carry out such an activity. The people behind this so-called peace forum in Zamboanga City are clearly misrepresenting the Philippine Government, the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) and the MNLF, as stated in their letter request addressed to the City Government of Zamboanga,” Galvez said.
Mayor Beng Climaco has stood firm in disallowing any MNLF activities here, especially the faction of Nur Misuari, whose loyal forces attacked the city in two separate occasions in the last 2 decades.
The letter purportedly signed by Mukisin Taguid-id and Jubail Kamlian, who claimed to be from the MNLF, asked the local government for a permit to allow about 500 of its members and supporters to gather here for the peace and federalism forum, and even invited Climaco to be one of their honored guests.
Climaco rejected the MNLF request and did 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, said they have recommended to the local government not to issue any permit that would allow the forum, citing, security and public concerns. “We recommended to the City Government to deny and disapprove the request for a permit,” he said.
Now, Climaco wants organizers of that forum charged after residents in several barangays had panicked and fled their homes, fearing the MNLF would launch attacks again in retaliation for the foiled forum.
Climaco, also the chairperson of the city and regional peace and order councils, said instructed the local police force headed by Colonel Thomas Joseph Martir to invite for questioning the organizers of the forum and to file whatever charges fit against them for causing undue chaos and panic among residents.
She said it appeared that there is a pattern by certain individuals who would use the name of the national government and even that of President Rodrigo Duterte to make profit out of fees to be collected from such forum. “The matter has to be blottered and investigated by the police to prevent repetition of the same in the future. Find out what charges to be filed against them, probably misrepresentation,” Climaco said.
Galvez said they are supporting Climaco’s order to the police and investigate the matter. “We therefore support the call of Zamboanga City Mayor Isabelle ‘Beng’ Climaco-Salazar for authorities to look on this matter and prevent further misrepresentation that can create misunderstanding, confusion and unnecessary public alarm,” he said.
Misuari’s group has denied any participation in the failed forum organized by Taguid-id and Kamlian. “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.
Galvez said the Duterte administration continues to engage with Misuari in the peace process. “In parallel, we would like to clarify issues over the engagements between the Government and the MNLF, particularly with the group of MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari. Under the peace Agenda of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the government shall continue to engage MNLF Founding Chair Nur Misuari to complete the remaining commitments under the 1996 Final Peace Agreement by virtue of the Tripartite Review Process and the Bangsamoro Coordinating Forum with the OIC.”
“In compliance with our peace agenda, OPAPP recently organized the GPH-MNLF Joint Peace Coordinating Committees in order to have continuous dialogue, coordination and collaboration with the MNLF in maintaining lasting and enduring peace in Mindanao, particularly in troubled Island of Sulu. We are advising some quarters, particularly those who are not privy in the dialogues, to refrain from issuing premature statements that will derail the current peace efforts of the Duterte administration,” Galvez said.
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 devastation 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.
Now because of the peace process, Duterte ordered police and military not to arrest Misuari. (Zamboanga Post)
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