Misuari spokesman: Standoff will only be resolved by discussing MNLF peace pact
MANILA, Philippines—The standoff between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and government forces “would never be resolved without resorting to the peace agreement,” an MNLF spokesman said Tuesday.
In an interview with Radyo Inquirer 990AM, Atty. Emmanuel Fontanilla said MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari was asserting for a political solution to the standoff.
Gunshots rang out at dawn on the coastal outskirts of Zamboanga, in a confrontation between the government troops and up to 300 MNLF gunmen aimed at derailing peace talks.
The rebels seized 20 hostages at the start of the crisis, but Zamboanga Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco Salazar said they were now holding 87 people in six villages where they are holed up. At least six people were killed.
The spokesman said there is a need to put things into context.
“There is a peace agreement [between the MNLF and the Philippine government]. There is a mechanism if there are any problems,” he said.
Fontanilla lamented that the Philippine government opted to us military solution to the problem.
“Why did they use a military solution for a problem with an international agreement?” he said, adding that the Indonesian embassy should have already been tapped as third-party negotiator.
The MNLF has long been criticizing the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, claiming that it will water down the gains of its own final peace accord in 1996.
The group also claimed that several provisions of the 1996 agreement have yet to be implemented amid the Philippine government’s termination of its review.
Diversion for pork barrel scam
Fontanilla speculated that the Aquino administration deployed the military for the resulting clash to divert the issue of the pork barrel. He said Mindanao has always been the “punching bag” of Malacañang.
He also said the media should not refer to the incident as an “attack.”
“Gusto ko lang pong i-correct, hindi kami umatake. Saan bang barangay ang inatake namin? Saan ba nakuha ‘yan?((“I just want to correct, we did not attack. Which village did we attack? Where did they get that?)” he said.
Fontanilla reiterated that MNLF members were there to protect Misuari, who he said was going around Mindanao.
In an earlier interview, Fontanilla said the MNLF entered Zamboanga City to hold a “peace rally” but was not allowed by the local government.
Inquirer Mindanao on Tuesday said the MNLF has been consolidating its forces through such assemblies in various parts of Mindanao.
MNLF members would gather in full battle gear and express support for the declaration of “independence” in Mindanao.
Meanwhile, military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala earlier said they have been monitoring the MNLF for days.
“Three days ago we already monitored them coming in and they are unarmed but yesterday (Sunday) that’s the time we monitored that the armed elements are coming in and we engaged them,” Zagala said.
Fontanilla said on Monday that disagreement with the government over the peace process has forced them to return to their “former aspiration” of independence.
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