President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Wednesday said the government was considering offering a bounty for Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari, who is believed to have instigated the Zamboanga City siege.
In an interview, the President said the reward was being studied by government lawyers.
“That was actually my question yesterday. Can we actually offer a reward? So, my legal counsels are studying the matter clearly to make sure we are not violating any law,” he said.
Reports said Misuari would be prosecuted along with his arrested followers for rebellion and for violating international humanitarian laws that prohibit the taking of civilian hostages.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Aquino said, will be going to Zamboanga to check on the progress of the prosecutors who were interviewing witnesses and all the hostages.
“Their statements are being collated; the evidence is being collected and at the end of the day, we hope to file a very strong case against all of these people involved,” the President said.
The crisis in Zamboanga City may be over but the alleged ground commander of the rebel fighters, Habier Malik, is at large.
Tthe President tracker teams were going after Malik.
“With regards to Malik, we are not ready yet to make a positive statement as to his status. There are tests that are being conducted, among them DNA testing, to determine precisely his status,” he said
“But, the Secretary of National Defense yesterday emphasized whether he is alive or not, whether he has escaped or not, the force that he managed to lead in Zamboanga City is a force that no longer exists,” the President said.
Aquino also said security forces will transfer the 94 captured MNLF fighters from the city to a facility run by the Department of Justice “to enhance the feeling of order or security” in the city and “lest they become a temptation for their cohorts to try and spring them out and be a source of tension within the community.”
The President said the government was committed to helping Zamboanga residents in rebuilding their city, particularly those who lost their homes.
“It is a very significant problem. Over a hundred thousand are being cared for by DSWD. We have assured the Zamboanga City LGU, Mayor Climaco in particular, that we will not be scrounging for funds in terms of putting their lives back to order,” Aquino said.
CATHERINE S. VALENTE