Tausug police, soldiers lead fight vs MNLF
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—They lost their homes, others their lives, but these policemen and soldiers keep on fighting—and they fight their fellow Tausug.
Tausug policemen and soldiers were the first responders and they held the line, losing buddies to protect residents of Zamboanga City’s coastal villages from attacking Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels on Sept. 9.
The MNLF rebels are Tausug from Sulu and Samal and Badjaos from Basilan. They are followers of MNLF leader Nur Misuari.
Senior Supt. Dante Soledad, who leads the police forces in Santa Catalina village, said many of the policemen fighting the rebels are Tausug, Samal and Maranao.
“These are the very people who did not secure their families (first and just went forward) to protect the people of Zamboanga,” Soledad said.
“On the first day of the attack, I lost one good cop, a dedicated cop,” Soledad said, referring to PO2 Murphy Abbilani who was killed in fighting at dawn on Sept. 9.
PO1 Abdella Lama of the Regional Public Safety Battalion 9 (RPSB9) said all he could do was cry when he learned that his house was among those razed during fighting in Santa Catalina.
Lama, 26, said that as early as Sept. 8, his unit was called to “report to barracks,” as the city was placed on red alert.
That day was the first birth anniversary of his son.
“I wasn’t even able to embrace my son on his birthday,” he said.
Instead, Lama sent a text message to his wife, telling her to evacuate the family.
“My son became an evacuee on his birthday,” he said.
“We saved nothing, not even my papers as a policeman. I have only this,” he said, pointing to the uniform he had been wearing since Sept. 8.
Another policeman, PO2 John Raven Jamil, also of the RPSB9, lost his home in the Santa Catalina fire.
“The variety store and house that I built with my in-laws went up in smoke,” Jamil, 29, said.
He said the money he spent to put up the store was borrowed.
Still, he was thankful that his wife, two children and in-laws were able to get out of Santa Catalina.
“I will look for them after this crisis,” he said.
PO1 Albinar Milahad of the City Public Safety Group said his house was among the first homes to be burned in Ayer Village in Santa Barbara on Sept. 11.
“We were holding the line when I heard about the fire in our place,” Milahad said, adding that all he could do was send a text message to his parents who fled the village two days earlier.
“They took only three sets of clothes when they were evacuated on September 9,” he said.
Without a home, Milahad said he had to postpone his plan to marry his girlfriend. He was still saving up for it anyway.
Soledad said the first military responders were soldiers from the Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion, composed mainly of former MNLF members who had been integrated into the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Col. Jemar Johnson Aseron, commander of the 32nd IB, said almost half of the soldiers in his unit were former MNLF rebels integrated to the Armed Forces 15 to 20 years ago.
Jamil said he hoped the government would provide a new home for him and his family after the crisis.
“We’d appreciate even a shack so we could return to normal life,” he said.
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