President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Friday dismissed fears that the ongoing standoff between the government forces and rebel groups could spread to other provinces.
In a press conference in Zamboanga City, the President assured residents that the government has “overwhelming” number of forces and enough military equipment to end this conflict.
“Yung ating forces sufficient and talagang overwhelming not only in terms of number but equipment [I think we have overwhelming forces, not only in terms of number but also of enough equipment],” he said
For instance, the government troops, he said, were able to counter recent attacks by members of the Abu Sayyaf and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Basilan.
According to the President, the rebels are now contained in four barangays.
“Hindi sila pinayagan na makapagkalat pa ng lagim sa ibang lugar [We did not allow them to spread their violence],” he said.
“Tapos na ang maliligayang araw nila [Their happy days are over],” Aquino added
The President, on one hand, denied a report that several MNLF rebels surrendered to the government.
“Mali ata yun, walang sumuko [I don’t think that’s right. No one surrendered],” President Aquino replied when asked about the authenticity of a report citing that 80 member of the MNLF surrendered last night.
There was no surrender last night, but there were MNLF members arrested, Aquino pointed out.
The President said that he instructed the military forces to act when necessary.
The priority of the government , he said, was to ensure the safety of the resident in the area.
“Siguraduhin na walang unnecessary loss of blood, ano. Iyong preservation of life is the paramount mission [We want to ensure that there will be no unnecessary loss of blood. Preservation of life is the paramount mission,” he said
“I am confident that our Armed forces will be ready,” Aquino added
Speaking to reporters, the President admitted that the objectives behind Misuari and MNLF’s actions remain unclear but “there are some groups that don’t want the Framework Agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to continue.”
Misuari earlier accused that the government has disregarded them, prompting him to declare independence.
The President, however, said that his government has not failed in addressing the demands of the Misuari’s group.
For instance, he cited that the substantial components of the1996 final peace agreement was implemented, including the integration of more than 6,000 former rebels into the state security sector.
The government is willing to talk to Misuari about possible solutions to end this standoff, he added
Meanwhile, Aquino said that the government is looking at what possible charges can be filed against the members of Misuari-MNLF faction for the attack.
He noted the they want to ensure sufficient evidence before filing of charges to avoid dismissal of weak cases in the past.
“I think, from the start of the crisis, inatasan natin si Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima na tingnan kung ano ang actual na may pruweba tayo ng pinaggagawa nila,” he said
“Ayaw nating ulitin ‘yung sitwasyon na magkakaso ka, kulang ‘yung ebidensya, nadi-dismiss lang,” Aquino added
President Aquino went to Zamboanga City to personally assess the situation on the ground. CATHERINE S. VALENTE