MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Monday, September 9, condemned "in the strongest possible terms" the ongoing attack on Zamboanga City by suspected members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
"We condemn the attack on Zamboanga City in the strongest possible terms. It is incumbent on all people of goodwill to reject the violence that has erupted," presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a statement.
President Benigno Aquino III is presently being briefed on the situation and is receiving updates as information comes," Lacierda said.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas are on their way to Zamboanga as of posting time.
"The ongoing attack of armed individuals in Zamboanga City, including initial reports of the possible use of civilians as human shields, is a cause for great concern. The authorities are responding to the situation in a manner that will reduce the risk to innocent civilians and restore peace and order to Zamboanga City at the soonest possible time," Lacierda said.
Palace's official statement did not make mention of the MNLF nor of its founder and chairman Nur Misuari. Government sources said the MNLF has taken at least 20 hostages as it took over 4 barangays in Zamboanga City.
MNLF spokesperson Emmanuel Fontanilla has admitted the MNLF is now on "armed defensive mode" but denied they started the attack. They are calling for the intervention of Indonesia, which is the 3rd-party facilitator of the ongoing tripartite review on the 1996 peace agreement as the chair of Organization of Islamic Cooperation-Peace Committee for Southern Philippines (OIC-PCSP).
Malacañang is asking the public to refrain from spreading unnecessary information.
"We ask our fellow citizens to refrain from spreading speculation: fear and alarm spread by disinformation will only help those intent on disrupting the lives of residents of Zamboanga City," Malacañang said.
The attack comes as the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a breakaway group of the MNLF, are set to resume talks in Kuala Lumpur as they draw closer to signing a final peace pact. The MNLF wants to reopen talks with the government over what the group says are unimplemented provisions of the 1996 peace pact. - Angela Casauay/Rappler.com