Security exec: No intel failure on MNLF; gov’t just underestimated facts
MANILA, Philippines – The attack on Zamboanga City early Monday by the Moro National Liberation Front that led to a standoff with government forces was not an intelligence failure, a senior security official said Tuesday.
“It was not an intel failure but (the government) had problems of appreciation of the intel reports,” the official who is privy to the military’s classified reports, told INQUIRER.net on the condition he will not be named.
He said the military had earlier received reports and indicators on the impending threat of the MNLF, which the government knew.
But unfortunately the government dismissed Nur Misuari’s group as “a spent force.”
In August, the MNLF confirmed the declaration of an independent “Bangsamoro Republik,” and Misuari appointed himself as chief of the Bangsamoro Armed Forces.
The security official said the government should instead have taken “a holistic approach” even if it ruled out a military option in dealing with Misuari’s group.
“They should have looked at Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), or at other agencies involved,” he said.
Although the military had identified Misuari’s men in the standoff, President Benigno Aquino III said the evidence that Misuari was “engaged in such an activity was not yet present or at least is not apparent.”
“Well, merong (there’s) purported declaration si (by) Nur Misuari ng (of ) independence. Ang problema puro mga spokesman ang nagsalita na nagkaroon ng meeting na sinasabi raw niya independence (The trouble is we only heard their spokesmen claiming that the meeting resulted in the declaration of independence),” he said.
“If we say that he declared something through his men that we speak with, that’s where the concept of ‘hearsay’ comes in,” he said.
Aquino also recalled that in one of his conversations with OPAPP Secretary Ging Deles he asked her what was the basis for saying Misuari is still the voice for the entire MNLF.
“So what she answered me was: ‘All the factions seem to defer him.’ and that is also being studied at this point,” he told reporters in a press briefing in Makati City.
“Our obligations under the 1996 Agreement, I am told, have been complied with. But Chairman Misuari seems unsatisfied. Honestly and personally, it seems to me that if he would not head the ARMM, he will not agree to it. So how will we settle for an agreement if that’s what is happening?” he said.
Inciting to sedition or rebellion elements are still absent, Aquino said on Misuari’s earlier declaration of independence.
In an Inquirer report Tuesday, the attack of Misuari’s group on Zamboanga City came as a surprise to an MNLF faction led by Muslimin Sema.
Sema said he instructed his ground commanders in Central Mindanao, Western Mindanao and Lanao del Norte “to stay put and not be swayed” by the ongoing situation in Zamboanga City.
The MNLF attack on Zamboanga on Monday killed four and displaced thousands, with nearly 200 still taken hostage by the rebels.
The military placed seven ships to serve as naval blockade to prevent MNLF from reinforcing their troops occupying several coastal villages there.
Thousands of troops were also deployed, but the military is standing down for possible negotiations.
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