PNP: MNLF members 'repeatedly' tried to surrender
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Police interrogation of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters now in government custody shows they "repeatedly" tried to surrender in the early stages of the standoff but "attempts" to contact government officials "failed."
"They have decided to stop the fight and cease fire. Unfortunately, repeated attempts by the Yakan group to contact the government and state their opposition to [Commander Habier] Malik’s action failed," reads a police report released on Sunday, September 22.
Region 9 police spokesman Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca told Rappler this was the result of police interrogation of MNLF fighters who surrendered.
Rappler earlier reported that about 80 MNLF members, mostly from the Yakan tribe based in Basilan, surrendered to the police in Sta Barbara on September 12, or the 4th day of the siege. It was ignored, however.
They waited the entire night for their surrender to be processed by the Crisis Management Committee based in the city proper, but the committee later denied reports of their surrender. Interior Secretary Mar Roxas denied a surrender took place. But we stand by our story.
The surrender of 23 MNLF rebels would happen 5 days later — on September 17.
Clearing operations and intense fighting continued on Monday, September 23, the 15th day of the bloody siege. Two MNLF rebels were killed in Sta Barbara. Government troops were able to rescue two elderly who were trapped in the battle zone.
It's a close quarter battle that President Benigno Aquino III thought it would end last Sunday, September 22.
The Yakans and the Tausug
The police have been making a distinction between the Yankan MNLF fighters from Basilan and the Tausug MNLF fighters from Sulu.
As of September 22, a total 49 MNLF fighters have surrendered. Most, if not all, are Yakans from Basilan.
Malik and the remaining rebels fighting government troops in Zamboanga City belong to the Tausug tribe in Sulu.
The first big batch surrendered to Zamboanga City police chief Senior Supt Juan Chiquito Malayo on September 17. More MNLF fighters have surrendered since.
Malik's 'Grand Deception'?
The police have called the siege as "The Grand Deception" by Malik.
Huesca said the MNLF surrenderees claimed they sailed to Zamboanga City for a "peaceful rally." They were supposedly surprised when they were issued high-powered firearms.
"During interrogation recently conducted by the PNP to those who surrendered, particularly the Yakan MNLF members, specifically coming from Basilan, they consistently maintained that they were here for a 'peace rally,' and Php 10,000.00 will be given to them after the peace rally for these purposes," the police report added.
The MNLF earlier staged peace rallies in different provinces in Mindanao.
In Zamboanga City, however, the armed MNLF fighters supposedly wanted to hoist the flag of the "Independent Bangsamoro Republik" at the City Hall. Thus, the standoff.
The surrenderees admitted they initially engaged government troops. But they later decided to stop fighting and just surrender.
"Confused [with] their predicament and being now caught in the middle , they also fought with the government forces as they felt that they have no more choice and join what was clearly now, an attack on Zamboanga City," the police report added.
Their decision angered Malik, the report said.
"Malik subsequently ordered his men to disarm the Yakan group and two of them were killed," the police report continued. — Rappler.com