Zamboanga City finally lifts curfew

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ZAMBOANGA CITY: Zamboanga City’s crisis management committee headed by Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar has finally lifted on Monday a four-hour curfew here imposed following a failed rebellion in September.

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“Crisis Management Committee now lifts City-wide curfew starting today, December 2, 2013,” the committee said on the local government’s official twitter page.

The announcement was also made at ceremony giving tribute to fallen and living “heroes” that helped quell the rebellion launched by the Moro National Liberation Front in Zamboanga City. The committee passed a resolution lifting the curfew following the recommendation of police and military authorities.

The committee imposed the curfew since September following three weeks of deadly street battles between security forces and separatist Moro National Liberation Front rebels who stormed several villages in Zamboanga. The fighting, which started September 9, had killed and wounded over 400 people and forced more than 100,000 villagers to flee their homes.

Various sectors in Zamboanga have been complaining on the continued imposition of curfew and members of the City Council also called for the lifting of this. Local legislators had questioned the continued imposition of curfew and its economic effects on Zamboanga, a month after military and police quelled the rebellion.

Salazar has originally imposed a 9-hour curfew and after the fighting she 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 and then further adjusted this up to 4 a.m.

Every night, 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 CMC 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 were also forced 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 during curfew was 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. AL JACINTO

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