Misuari’s spokesman: Zambo situation might 'escalate'
COTABATO CITY, Philippines – The spokesperson for Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari Tuesday, September 10, warned that violence in Zamboanga City might spread to other areas in Mindanao.
“It’s been 24 hours now and the government is doing nothing but sending more troops. We are on a defensive posture however if under attack we will respond,” lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla told a local radio station.
Fontanilla insisted they did not start the fighting, but government authorities claimed MNLF members entered Zamboanga to symbolically declare independence.
“We did not carry out attacks. We have movements to secure our chairman for a peace rally. Our plan is to coordinate with authorities but they attacked us instead,” he added.
“Don’t expect the situation to die down. This will escalate as the government prefers to solve the crisis with the use of military,” Fontanilla stressed.
In Central Mindanao, MNLF men under Misuari are on high alert for possible military offensives.
Ismael Doc Farnan, Misuari’s general for Central Mindanao, said they were instructed by their comrades in Zamboanga City to alert their forces in all their camps in the region amid the on-going violence in Zamboanga.
“I got a message from our comrade involved in the crisis. There were no plans to attack Zamboanga. Those men involved were supposed to return to their respective homes after attending their independence declaration last August 12,” he said in a phone interview.
Misuari represents at least 3 factions in the MNLF. Authorities refer to Misuari's group as "MBG," or the Misuari Breakaway Group.
Muslimin Sema, a leader of another MNLF faction, said the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) must intervene in the crisis before it's too late. He said the participation of OIC in the standoff could influence Misuari’s group to release their hostages.
“All problems can be resolved through peaceful means. That’s what both parties should do,” he said. The influential OIC is a body of Muslim countries that have played a key role in the peace process involving the MNLF and previous Philippine governments. The MNLF signed a peace pact with the Ramos administration in 1996.
Sema, former Cotabato City mayor, earlier ordered his troops to stay put and not support Misuari's men in Zamboanga.
A third MNLF faction is led by former MNLF leaders who formed the Islamic Command Council at the height of Misuari's talks with the Ramos government. This is led by Hashim Boghdadi. Though this faction opposes the government's peace initiatives with the MILF, it is not clear if it is supporting Misuari's men in Zamboanga City. – Jeoffrey Maitem/Rappler.com