2 years after Zambo siege, Binay blames ‘stubborn’ Aquino admin for casualties
Two years since the Zamboanga City siege by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Vice President Jejomar Binay is blaming the current administration’s stubbornness in agreeing to a ceasefire over the displacement of thousands in the aftermath of the crisis.
In a statement on Wednesday, Binay, now opposition leader in his bid to run for president in 2016, said the victims of the siege are casualties of the Aquino administration’s refusal then to agree to his idea of a ceasefire.
At the peak of the siege, Binay proposed the idea of brokering a ceasefire with MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari, who was his classmate at the University of the Philippines Diliman.
Now, two years after, Binay blamed the administration for thousands of victims who were displaced by the siege.
“We pay tribute to the courage of the people of Zamboanga City. On their own, they have picked up the pieces of their lives. They are the casualties of an administration’s stubborn refusal to agree to a ceasefire that could have spared the city and its people from the wages of armed conflict,” Binay said.
“They continue to suffer from the administration’s inept and uncaring response to the humanitarian crisis that followed,” he added.
After five days of fighting since the standoff erupted last Sept. 9, 2013, Binay said he talked to Misuari and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin for a ceasefire between the government troops and the MNLF fighters.
The Misuari faction of the MNLF attacked Zamboanga City in a bid for independence after claiming they were sidelined in the peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has now resulted in the proposed Bangsamoro basic law.
The MILF is a breakaway group of the MNLF. The MNLF justified their attack by saying the signing of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement with the MILF sidelined the 1996 peace pact between government and the MNLF.
But Gazmin later denied there was a ceasefire that would have given way to a peaceful settlement. Binay said the truce did not hold because the fighting still ensued.
Binay drew flak on social media for supposedly politicking the negotiations.
The stand-off last Sept. 2013 left nine civilians, 23 soldiers and policemen and 100 MNLF fighters dead. More than 10,000 houses were burned in nine barangays (villages), forcing 116,000 people to flee their homes.
With thousands still in evacuation centers, Binay scored the dire conditions the evacuees were put in, blaming the administration for failing to handle the aftermath of the crisis.
“Two years after the tragedy, hundreds remain in transitory homes where access to basic services and facilities is limited. They continue to live in squalor, with reports of women and children being raped and forced into prostitution, and the evacuees exposed to disease and malnutrition,” Binay said.
“P3.5 billion has been earmarked for the recovery and reconstruction of Zamboanga City. Yet, as is the case with the other crises this administration has handled, we have yet to see the effects of such funding in addressing the needs of those affected,” he added. Marc Jayson Cayabyab/JE
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