WHILE the government troops are conducting clearing operations in Zamboanga City, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor on Tuesday allayed fears of a possible spillover of the conflict in Metro Manila.
ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said it is no longer possible for the armed members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by founding chairman Nur Misuari to sow terror in other parts of the country particularly in Metro Manila after the Zamboanga siege.
According to Hataman, Misuari’s group has weakened after they attacked Zamboanga city on September 9 since majority of its men were killed, captured and surrendered.
He said if Misuari has a broad following, he could have launched attacks to various places simultaneously with Zamboanga city.
“If he has broad following, Misuari should have launched simultaneous attacks in various parts of Mindanao,” Hataman said during the Pulong Bulungan forum on Tuesday.
About 200 members of the MNLF-Misuari faction entered Zamboanga, taking hostage residents that led to almost three weeks gunfight.
He likewise confirmed that Misuari even disowned his men when the government threatened him to be charged with sedition while they are about to declare independence in Zamboanga.
He also explained that the it takes time for the government to fully recover Zamboanga city from MNLF because of the presence of hostages.
“We don’t want to compromise the safety of the hostages, so it takes time before Zamboanga was fully recovered by the government forces,” he added.
He maintained that the MNLF members who attacked Zamboanga were deceived about their true purpose.
He said some of the rebels loyal to Misuari could have been given misinformation that their armed struggle would be supported by the United Nations (UN).
Besides this, they were also convinced that President Benigno Aquino 3rd had already given up control of Zamboanga City to the MNLF.
He said some of the rebels who have since surrendered to authorities thought they would just be raising a flag at the Zamboanga City Hall and meet UN peacekeeping forces in that area.
“They said it was supposed to be peaceful but that’s hard to believe when you are bearing arms and taking hostages,” he said. RITCHIE A. HORARIO