Misuari deceived his men–Hataman
The 20-day siege that left Zamboanga City in ruins and displaced nearly 120,000 of its residents is a story of deception, from fake text messages to a fake United Nations representative, according to Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Mujiv Hataman.
Hataman made the statement Tuesday in Manila, days after the government declared an end to nearly three weeks of fierce fighting between the military and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) faction led by Nur Misuari.
Hataman was in Zamboanga at the height of the crisis to look after ARMM residents trapped in the city. He also attempted to negotiate with MNLF commander Habier Malik, Misuari’s second in command, but the talks failed after the rebel demanded to speak to a UN representative.
“You’ll really see how they deceived those who went there and the propaganda of the Misuari camp. If you notice, a lot of those who surrendered didn’t think that that [the siege] will happen,” Hataman said on Tuesday in a media forum in Pasay City.
Hataman said many of the MNLF fighters contacted their relatives on the second day of the siege and related the same story they later told the media—that they had been instructed to appear for a peace caravan.
“Based on our interviews, two days after the first encounter, many were calling us from inside [the MNLF], calling mayors and their relatives saying, ‘We didn’t expect that it will be like this, we were told to come for a peace caravan, that they will raise our flag and the UN peacekeeping force will arrive,’” said Hataman.
He said many of the fighters believed the United Nations was coming to officially recognize the independent Bangsamoro Republik that Misuari had declared in Sulu on Aug. 12.
“They were told that whoever joined [the caravan] would be issued by the United Nations one firearm each and would be given ATM cards with which they could withdraw P10,000 to P15,000 a month,” said Hataman.
He said that one month before the crisis, a man identified as Xavier Daniel was making the rounds of Sulu introducing himself as a UN representative.
“He looked like an American. A police profile showed he had an estafa case. He said he was sent by [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon. He disappeared before the crisis, but the story [about a UN representative] had spread by that time,” Hataman said.
The United Nations repeatedly denied sending a representative.
In a statement on July 26, the United Nations said it had “been informed that a certain Mr. Xavier Daniel is falsely claiming to represent [the United Nations], in particular in Mindanao. He has, in this false capacity, engaged with various persons and agencies in Mindanao.”
“The (United Nations) wishes to categorically state that it has no relationship with any person by this name and that no such person has in the past or currently is authorized to represent the United Nations or any official of the United Nations in relation to any matter concerning the Philippines,” it said.
Hataman said that Malik had demanded the presence of a UN representative in the early stage of the crisis when he (Hataman) attempted to negotiate with the MNLF commander.
“He told me that only the United Nations could pacify this,” said Hataman.
Malik also reportedly showed an emissary a text message supposedly from President Aquino to Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco ordering the latter to surrender her turf to the MNLF.
Hataman said he supported an investigation and prosecution of Misuari.
“If an ordinary cell-phone snatcher is arrested, slapped around and shoved into jail, how much more someone behind a crime this big?” he said.
Misuari signed a peace pact with the government in 1996. He became the first governor of the ARMM, which was created as a result of the peace deal.
“If Malik was able to escape, I’m sure he won’t repeat (the Zamboanga siege). It will take a long, long time before he can launch another offensive like that. They have seen the force applied by the government, how the government defends its people,” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told reporters late Monday afternoon.
Gazmin said that if Malik were alive, he would likely be hunting down Misuari for disowning the Sept. 9 attack on Zamboanga.—With a report from Nikko Dizon
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