Mayor accuses MNLF of massing in Zamboanga del Sur townBy Julie Alipala
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—A municipal mayor in Zamboanga del Sur has accused the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) of sowing fear in a village in his town by allegedly massing up forces there.
“Armed men introducing themselves as members of the MNLF have been massing up since October 3 and they were causing fear and displacements in Barangay (the village of) Lower Landing,” Mayor Nacianceno Pacalioga Jr. of Dumingag, Zamboanga del Sur, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, by phone on Wednesday.
He said that as of Wednesday, 15 families from Barangay Lower Landing fled their homes while officials of the Lower Landing Elementary School suspended classes when schoolchildren failed to report since Monday due to fear of the armed men.
Pacalioga said the number of MNLF men in the village grew by the day from just five a few days ago.
About 25 armed MNLF men in the area, who were being led by commander Aspie Abdurahman, MNLF training director, and his deputy, Ahmad Joemar Jajie.
“Dumingag has no large Muslim population and it is not known to be an MNLF area, that’s why their presence was causing fear,” Pacalioga said.
MNLF chair Nur Misuari did not deny that MNLF members came to Dumingag.
But he said they were unarmed and should not cause fear.
“We are not there to sow fear. Those people are unarmed and they are just there, giving lectures to the villagers. They will leave immediately,” he said.
He said contrary to Pacalioga’s claim, only about seven MNLF members were tasked to conduct lectures in the village about the organization.
Major General Rainier Cruz, commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, which has jurisdiction over Dumingag, said the MNLF men were actually recruiting new members in the village.
When it signed a peace deal with the government in 1996, the MNLF did not disarm and continued to recruit new members.
“What we got from the ground was the MNLF men were recruiting Subanens to join them,” he said.
Cruz said Pacalioga’s report on the alleged massing up of MNLF men in the area was “exaggerated.”
But Pacalioga maintained the MNLF men were sowing fear and because of this, town officials had passed a resolution urging them to back away from the village.
“We want them to leave our town in peace,” he said.
Misuari recently threatened to sue the Philippine government before the International Court of Justice for signing a framework agreement towards peace with the Moro Islamic Libertion Front despite its existing peace agreement with the MNLF.
Tags: Ahmad Joemar Jajie , Aspie Abdurahman , Conflict , Dumingag , Local authorities , Local Governments , mayors , Moro National Liberation Front , Nacianceno Pacalioga , Nur Misuari , Regions , Zamboanga del Sur