Leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) urged Malacañang to create an independent fact-finding panel that will conduct a thorough probe of the siege in Zamboanga City to determine how it started and who are the persons behind it.
The call was made during the regional consultative meeting held last week in Marawi City. The assembly, the second to be held in preparation for the tripartite review process set this month, brought together delegates from Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Soccsksargen, Davao City, Compostela Valley, Palawan, and Jolo. Also present were MNLF legal council head Randolf Parcasio and vice chairman Jimmy Labawan.
Those who attended the meeting said that MNLF chairman Nur Misuari, who is suspected by the government of having ordered the siege, “must be given due process before being charged with rebellion.”
“That is why the MNLF central committee is strongly urging the administration of Aquino to create an independent fact finding body to investigate the Zamboanga siege in order to erase doubts and come out with the truth on who is really behind the 20-days war in Zamboanga, ”said Johnny Siao, the head of the MNLF National Border Command Group based in Regions 11 and 12.
The MNLF leaders said that the probe panel should be composed of representatives of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process, MNLF, Department of Justice, police, military and non-government organizations.
Labawan stressed the need for an independent investigation because of reports that the government released P1 billion to “stage” a war in Zamboanga.
Abdulrahman Imaw, Zamboanga State Revolutionary Committee chairman, said that he received information from a nun in Davao City that some top police and military officials and a number of politicians “dramatized” the siege. Ustadz Pendi Colano also disclosed that a certain Daniel Javier allegedly egged MNLF combatants to prepare for war against the government.
“We believe that the government is directly accusing Misuari without even conducting a comprehensive investigation to prove if he masterminded the Zamboanga stand off. In this particular case, we seek the creation of the independent fact finding body so the truth will come out,” Labawan said.
Parcasio claimed that government officials wanted to neutralize Misuari and stop the tripartite review.
“Even though Misuari has been neutralized by the government, the MNLF central committee still wants the government to pursue and fulfill the long standing phase I provisions and start the implementation of phase II provisions of the signed final 1996 peace agreement,” he said.
Imaw denied the claim of Zamboanga Mayor Maria Isabel Climaco that the MNLF group that assembled in the city wanted to raise the Bangsamoro flag. He said that the MNLF members only wanted to display their small flags while holding a peace assembly.
But because of Climaco’s claim, policemen harassed the MNLF members and they were forced to defend themselves.
As the situation became more serious, MNLF reinforcements under Ustaj Khabier Malik arrived and it was at this point that a fighting war broke out.
“Doon na nag-umpisa ang bakbakan ng magkabilang panig (and thus the war between the group of Malik and the government forces started)”, Imaw said.
Parcasio said they believed that the present administration of President Aquino is sincere enough to prove its worth in attaining long lasting peace “as we want to pursue the tripartite review process this coming MNLF-GPH tripartite review on the second week of November this year”, he added.
He said that they will again discuss the Zamboanga siege in their next assembly to be held from Nov. 6 to7.
Parcasio said that they will continue to discuss with the government the 42 “defective provisions” of Republic Act 9054 or the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. He said that the MNLF leadership will submit its final proposal and recommendations on these provisions, particularly on territorial claims and wealth sharing.
Labawan said that they decided to pursue discussions with the government so that both panels would finally determine what provisions of the final peace agreement signed in 1996 have been implemented and which ones were ignored.