ZAMBOANGA CITY: Rebellion charges have been filed against 23 alleged rebels who surrendered to the police at the height of fierce fighting between security forces and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines, reports said.
Solar News, which quoted Assistant City Prosecutor Glady Bernabe, reported that the group of Commander Usong Ugong, was formally charged on Friday in Zamboanga City.
Ugong’s group surrendered on September 17 to Senior Superintendent Jose Chiquito Malayo, then the local police chief, in the village of Mampang in exchange for a safe passage back to Basilan province. Ugong claimed that the MNLF under Nur Misuari misled them into believing they would attend a peace rally in Zamboanga, but ended up hiding in the village when fighting erupted.
Malayo was initially reported to have been taken hostage by Ugong’s group, but this had been denied by the police officer who admitted he went to the village to negotiate for the surrender of the rebels. Malayo was recently sacked.
But other reports claimed that Ugong’s group was allegedly paid or is working for a politician who sent the gunmen to Zamboanga to pose as surrenderees to demoralize the ranks of the rebel group.
Ugong’s group has been separated from over 200 MNLF rebels now being held in the sprawling San Ramon Penal Farm and moved to the overcrowded Zamboanga Reformatory Center for a still unknown reason.
Zamboanga Mayor Maria Isabella Salazar said she will not allow the rebels to go unpunished.
Rebel forces led by Ustadz Khabir Malik stormed several villages in Zamboanga on September 9 and took over 200 people hostage and used them as shield against pursuing soldiers and authorities said almost all captives had been freed or rescued.
The fighting killed and wounded over 400 people and displaced more than 100,000 people. Malik escaped the military dragnet along with his trusted men and were either in Basilan or Sulu provinces, both strongholds of the MNLF rebels.
Misuari, who signed a peace accord with Manila in 1996, accused the Aquino government of reneging on the peal deal and launched a new rebellion, the second in more than a decade. In 2001, loyal forces of Misuari also attacked military bases in Zamboanga City and Jolo town in Sulu province and the clashes killed over 100 people.