MANILA, Philippines — The entire province of Basilan went on alert Monday, September 9, with the governor imposing a curfew starting at 8 pm Monday up to 4 am Tuesday.
Gov Jum Akbar told Rappler the alert was based on the advice of the police and the military following intelligence reports that Basilan is the next target of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) forces that have occupied 4 villages in neighboring Zamboanga City.
Various establishments in the capital city of Isabela were shut down Monday for fear that the Zamboanga crisis might spill over to the province. Isabela is 30 minutes away via pumpboat from Zamboanga City.
In Zamboanga City, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin arrived Monday afternoon to assess the situation that has already killed 6 and wounded 24.
MNLF members belonging to the faction of their founder Nur Misuari have set two demands for government as they continued to hold at least 80 hostages and threaten to mount more attacks in Zamboanga City.
In an interview aired on local radio RMN Monday morning, MNLF deputy commander Salid Ismael declared the following demands:
1) They want to be be allowed to walk with their 87 hostages from Sitio Bugok to Ayer Village in Barangay Sta Catalina to Zamboanga City Hall so they can hoist the MNLF flag and denounce the planned Bangsamoro independence of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front;
2) They’re asking government not to fire at them and let them keep their hostages
Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco rejected the demands.
Ismael is the deputy of MNLF commander Ustadz Habier Malik, who is based in Sulu. Public affairs chief Lt Col Ramon Zagala confirmed that Malik is leading the attacks in Zamboanga City.
Misuari has protested the ongoing peace talks between the government and the MNLF’s rival organization, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). While he himself already signed a peace agreement with the Ramos government in 1996, Misuari is now saying that government has not fulfilled its commitments in that pact — more than a decade after it was implemented.
The peace process with the MILF aims to establish a Bangsamoro region that is broader and more independent than what the MNLF had to settle for in 1996: the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Misuari in fact was governor of ARMM, an entity that many say has failed and would be abolished once a law is crafted for the creation of a new Bangsamoro region. — with reports from Richard Falcatan/Rappler.com