THE Philippine National Police (PNP) clarified on Monday that rogue elements of the Moro National Liberation (MNLF) are not holding 200 civilians as hostages in the besieged Zamboanga City.
PNP spokesman, Senior Supt. Wilben Mayor made the clarification as the standoff between government security forces and MNLF rebels in Zamboanga City have already resulted to six dead and 24 wounded.
“There are 200 people stranded in Brgy. Sta. Calina . . . they cannot leave, but they are not hostages,” Mayor told reporters in a press briefing in Camp Crame.
An earlier report said that more than 300 MNLF fighters, loyal to their chairman and former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor Nur Misuari, stormed several villages in Zamboanga City and declares independence.
“As for the motive behind the [Zamboanga City] incident… we cannot speculate as of now, but rest assured that the PNP and the Armed Forces [AFP] are doing its job to resolve the situation as soon as possible,” Mayor said.
The PNP spokesman also declined to say if they will place the besieged city under a ‘state of emergency’, saying that their primary task is to ensure the stability of peace and order situation in the area.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd are flying in to Zamboanga City to assess the current situation in the area.
Initial reports at the PNP national operations center in Camp Crame said the MNLF rebels swooped down on the villages of Rio Hondo, Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalona and Mariki and raised their flag.
The reports said that combine military and police forces in Zamboanga City quickly engaged the MNLF fighters, allegedly led by Ustadz Habier Malik, into a firefight, leaving at least one soldier dead and 12 others wounded.
The MNLF fighters, which also declared their chairman, former ARMM governor Nur Misuari as president, took at least 40 civilians as hostages and triggering a stand-off between government troops and MNLF rebels.
As of press time, MNLF spokesman, Lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla said in a radio interview that their forces are in control of seven villages of Zamboanga City, prompting an emergency meeting in Manila. Anthony Vargas