ZAMBOANGA CITY: Various sectors here have been complaining on the continued imposition of curfew by the local Crisis Management Committee.
Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar, who heads the Crisis Management Committee, has imposed 9-hour curfew following three weeks of bloody street battles between security forces and separatist rebels in Zamboanga last month.
After the fighting, Salazar reduced the curfew to 5 hours – from 12 p.m. to 5 a.m. – from the original 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. in the whole of Zamboanga. Nightly, dozens of civilians are being apprehended by the police for violating the curfew and many of them are briefly detained after interrogations.
Even media workers need to get a so-called “curfew pass” from the Crisis Management Committee for them to be able to do their job at night. But the curfew pass is not a guarantee that journalists and reporters, especially those working for radio stations, would not be apprehended.
A group of reporters from dxRZ Radyo Agong was briefly held by the police. And not even their media cards were honored.
Groceries and supermarkets have to reduce store hours, and hotels and restaurants and other night establishments are also affected by the curfew. Provincial buses from Cagayan de Oro and Pagadian cities have cut off its trip to Zamboanga at night because of the curfew hours.
The night scene in Zamboanga is a now a reminiscent of what the city looked like 20 years ago – dark and silent with just dogs roaming on the streets – and yet the local government has been appealing to residents to help rebuild Zamboanga from the ashes or war, and recently from the devastations brought about by natural calamities.
Local legislators are also questioning now the continued imposition of curfew and its economic effects on Zamboanga, a month after military and police quelled a rebellion launched by the Moro National Liberation Front under Nur Misuari. Over 400 people were killed and wounded in the clashes that also resulted in a humanitarian crisis.
Salazar said the curfew will continue until security forces are finished clearing at least 5 areas occupied by rebels during the siege of Zamboanga.