Gazmin thinks man who led MNLF attack on Zamboanga is dead
MANILA, Philippines — Habier Malik “obviously” is dead.
These were the words of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Monday when asked if he thinks Malik, the Moro National Liberation Front member who led the attacks on the ground in the three-week Zamboanga City gunbattle last September, is already dead.
“We have no evidence, but their spokesman [Emmanuel] Fontanilla said Malik is alive. If he is really alive, they should show us. It’s been a while, but why hasn’t he showed up yet?” he told reporters at Camp Aguinaldo.
“That’s what happened with Abu Sabaya in the past. They said he did not die, and yet he has not showed up,” he said.
Sabaya, an Abu Sayyaf leader, was said to have been killed by government forces in 2002. No proof of his demise had been presented, however.
“I think there’s no longer an issue with Malik. They’ve been saying that he’s still alive and yet he has not showed up,” Gazmin said.
A known follower of MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari, Malik led the attacks in Zamboanga last September. It left at least 200 people killed and thousands displaced.
“Justice has not been served in the sense that we have not yet arrested Misuari,” Gazmin said, but added that they are “exerting all efforts” to get him.
Zamboanga soldiers recognized
Also on Monday, 18 out of over 2,000 soldiers that were deployed to Zamboanga City were awarded at Camp Aguinaldo for their “gallantry in action and acts of heroism.”
President Benigno Aquino III led the handing of awards, which include two Distinguished Conduct Star, three Distinguished Service Star and nine Gold Cross Medals. Some were awarded posthumously.
The DCS, the second highest award in the military after the Medal of Valor, was awarded to Lieutenant Colonel Oriel Pangcog, Battalion Commander of Joint Special Operations Task Group Arrow and Captain Reynir Nirza of AFP Joint Operations Group for their “conspicuous acts of courage and gallantry in the face of the enemy.”
Western Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Rey Ardo and Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Brigadier General Rodelio Santos were recipients of the DSS for their “eminently meritorious and valuable service rendered during the Zamboanga crisis.”
Also a recipient of the DSS was Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, public affairs chief, for representing the military organization during the crisis.
His media appearances “successfully expanded the reach of AFP’s accomplishments and established the AFP’s legitimate crisis resolution capabilities and its reputation in the world,” his award citation read.
Gold Cross Medal Awardees include Army First Lietenant Francis Damian who was killed after sustaining gunshot wounds in a firefight with MNLF. His wife, Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade Aemy Leslie Damian received the award.
Other officers who received Gold Cross Medals were Army 1Lt. Jerson A. Jurilla, Marine 1Lt. Dexter R. Carin, and Navy LtJg. Joey B. Cayao. Enlisted Personnel who also received said medal were Army Sgt. Larry C. Lopez, Navy F1MR Abelardo E. Angelo, Air Force Sgt. Salvador B. Codon Jr. and Army SSgt. Allan S. Adap, while Nicolas Saquing received the posthumous Gold Cross Medal in honor of his late father, Cpl. Eduardo C. Saquing, who died during the crisis.
A Bronze Cross Medal was awarded to Maj. Caezar Almer E. Candelaria of the Medical Corps “for acts of heroism involving risk of life as Team Leader of the Medical Team, Special Operations Task Group.”
A Military Merit Medal with Bronze Spearhead Device was awarded to Air Force Maj. Renie N. Aureo and Army Cpt. Dranreb E. Lansang for gallantry in action; while Marine Pfc. Eduardo A. Jose who was wounded in action received the Wounded Personnel Medal.
The AFP had previously awarded 550 soldiers in the Zamboanga siege.
“This 18 [personnel] is just a representation but everyone is recognized especially those directly involved in direction with enemy forces at that time,” Zagala said.
Aquino, in his speech, was all praises for Gazmin who survived through the years — from the coup attempts during his mother’s presidency to the Zamboanga siege.
“Maikuwento ko lang po sa inyo: ilang coup ang dinaanan ng administrasyon ng aking ina, pero hindi po kailanman pinanghinaan ng loob si Sec. Volts. Biruin ninyo, sa gitna ng putukan at habang nagsisimula nang umikot ang mga Tora-Tora sa ere, puwede siyang kinabahan, puwede siyang nag-panic. Pero hindi niya kami tinalikuran (I just want to tell you this: several coup attempts had threatened the administration of my mom [Cory Aquino] but never did this scare Sec. Volts. Amidst gunfire and when the Tora-Tora planes circled [the Palace], this could have made him nervous and caused him to panic. But he never left us),” he said.
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