ZAMBOANGA CITY – Rebellion charges have been filed against 23 men who surrendered at the height of fierce fighting between security forces and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members in Zamboanga City last month, reports said Saturday.
Solar News, which quoted Assistant City Prosecutor Glady Bernabe, reported the group of Commander Usong Ugong was formally charged on Friday.
Ugong’s group surrendered September 17 to Sr. Supt. Jose Chiquito Malayo, then the local police chief, in the village of Mampang in exchange for a safe passage back to Basilan.
Ugong claimed 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 was denied by the police officer who said he went to the village to negotiate for the surrender of the rebels.
Malayo has been relieved as police chief.
But other reports claimed Ugong’s group was allegedly paid or working for a politician who sent the gunmen to Zamboanga to pose as surrenderees to demoralize the ranks of the rebel group and as a media propaganda.
Ugong and his men have been separated from over 200 MNLF rebels now held in the sprawling San Ramon Penal Farm and moved to the overcrowded Zamboanga Reformatory Center.
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. Authorities said almost all captives had been freed or rescued.
The fighting had killed and wounded over 400 people and displaced more than 100,000 people. Malik escaped along with his trusted men to either Basilan or Sulu, both MNLF strongholds.
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.