MANILA, Philippines – “Slow, sure, deliberate” was how President Benigno Aquino III described the military actions in Zamboanga City, as he was about to leave for Manila, two weeks into the conflict.
In a televised press conference, Aquino said government operations in the area were carefully planned to save hostages held by the Moro National Liberation Front.
“[Operations] should be slow, sure, deliberate and well thought-out to accomplish the primary mission [of recovering the hostages],” the President said, in response to why the conflict has yet to be resolved since clashes between the MNLF and government forces started September 9.
Aquino explained it was difficult for the military and the police to determine, whenever they entered a house, if the person in front of them was a hostage or an enemy, contributing to the drawn-out clearing operations.
“We cannot just fire mortars at the rebels and disregard the people caught in the middle,” he said.
He also said there was a belief that food, ammunition and other needs of the MNLF were “prepositioned beforehand,” explaining why the Moro gunmen are able to last that long.
The President, who arrived in Zamboanga City last September 13, said he was returning to Manila to tend to other responsibilities.
He said there were several pending appointments that needed to be approved, including that of a deputy ombudsman, in addition to the problems faced by the storm-devastated Batanes.
Nevertheless, the President assured the public that the conflict is about to end as the government readies rehabilitation efforts, as well as charges to be filed against MNLF leader Nur Misuari.