MANILA, Philippines – Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Monday blamed the recent conflict in Zamboanga City on the lack of inclusive consultations for the Mindanao peace process.
The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) clashed with government troops on Monday morning, leaving at least six people dead and several others injured. At least 220 people from two villages were also allegedly taken as hostages.
“With the recent MNLF raid in Zamboanga City, the bombings in Central Mindanao, and the Sabah skirmishes earlier this year, it is now apparent that the consultations for the peace talks have not been inclusive after all,” Trillanes said in a text message to media.
The senator said the government peace panel should address the problem “before another group rises to express their opposition to the peace framework agreement.”
“Having said this, the AFP should contain and resolve the situation in Zamboanga and bring the perpetrators to justice,” Trillanes said.
The ongoing peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has caused friction among secessionist groups in Mindanao.
The MNLF has expressed concern on how it would affect their peace pact finalized in 1996.
MNLF spokesperson Atty. Emmanuel Fontanilla said disagreement with the government has forced them to return to their “former aspiration” of independence. He said several provisions of their 1996 peace agreement have yet to be implemented by the government.
Meanwhile, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway group of the MILF, was accused of working with the Khilafa Islamiyah, a new al-Qaeda-inspired group tagged in the Cagayan de Oro bombings, to derail the peace process.
In February this year, heirs of the Sulu sultanate pressed their claim to Sabah, after allegedly being left out of the peace process. The arrival of hundreds of their supporters in Sabah resulted in a stand-off with Malaysian forces and subsequent clashes.