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Truce talks fail

MNLF safe passage rejected by Pnoy The government and leaders of the Nur-Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front failed to come to terms on  a possible ceasefire on the standoff in Zamboanga City, which  entered its sixth day Saturday. The botched negotiations resulted in renewed clashes between the rebels and government troops that had so far killed 53, 43 on the rebels’ side, injured 70, and forced the evacuation of more than 60,000 people.
MORALE BOOSTER. President Aquino  visits  the wounded soldiers at the Camp Navarro Hospital in Zamboanga City  after giving the Army troopers  a pep talk amid the standoff between MNLF and government forces.  MORALE BOOSTER. President Aquino visits the wounded soldiers at the Camp Navarro Hospital in Zamboanga City after giving the Army troopers a pep talk amid the standoff between MNLF and government forces.
The negotiations were initiated by Vice President Jejomar Binay,  who flew to Zamboanga City on orders of President Benigno Aquino III. Binay’s spokesman Joey Salgado  said the negotiations broke down after Aquino rejected the MNLF conditions, which he did not specify. But sources said the negotiations centered on conditions such as giving safe passages to the MNLF rebels and the withdrawal of government forces in the barangays that the rebels had occupied since Monday and the freeing of hostages. Binay said he was saddened that “his efforts to secure the release of the hostage in Zamboanga City did not prosper”. “Both the MNLF and the Philippine government wanted peace. But there were terms set that were not acceptable,” Binay  added. Binay went back to Manila Saturday night. “The Vice President asks everyone to pray for the safety of the hostages and for peace in Zamboanga City. But MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza blamed Interior and Local Government Mar Roxas III for the botched negotiations. Cerveza confirmed that Binay phoned Misuari at the break of dawn on Saturday to ask the MNLF leader to end the crisis “peacefully and without further loss of lives.” Binay reportedly proposed a ceasefire and Misuari agreed, provided that the government withdrew its forces involved in the crisis. “At about 1 a.m. Binay and Misuari agreed on those conditions and were about to enforce them at 7 a.m. but the ceasefire was aborted due to the intervention of a local official,” said Cerveza, referring to Roxas. Cerveza said Roxas wanted all the MNLF in Zamboanga to surrender. “Misuari got irked and aborted the mechanism reached between him and Binay,” Cerveza said. Later, the government reported that Aquino rejected the conditions set by Misuari, without saying what the conditions were. Binay and Aquino met at the Western Mindanao Command office for a briefing and later visited the 62,000 evacuees crammed inside the Zamboanga City Grandstand. Cerveza, however, denied that Misuari, or his men, had specified the conditions for the government to end the crisis. “We are not proposing anything, that’s a lie” he said. Ang nag request ay si Binay hinggil sa ceasefire and complete withdrawal ng lahat ng puersa, pero hindi nga natuloy,” Cerveza said. “Eh ganun na nga nangyari kasi ayaw daw ni Roxas. Pulitika ang dahilan,” he added. (It was not us who proposed the conditions for a ceasefire, it was Binay, but Roxas rejected them.  Politics is the reason behind all these.) After Roxas intervened, Cerveza said the MNLF decided to stick to their position of “no surrender and no retreat.” With both sides failing to agree to a ceasefire, government renewed their assault on the MNLF positions, as they blamed that the rebels broke a ceasefire agreement by firing mortars and shooting at government troops as well as civilians in Zamboanga City. Zamboanga City Mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, who heads the Crisis Management Committee (CMC), City Mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, reportedly gave the greenlight to start assaulting MNLF positions after the rebels fired mortars to civilian areas. Salazar also ordered all barangay officials “to held defend your communities and coordinate with the police and military. Set-up early warning system and report sightings.” Salazar said she wants the city freed from the likes of ‘violent’ MNLF rebels. “I want it finished today. We do not want them to get out scot-free. We do not want them to leave with a free pass,” she said. Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, head of the miltiary’s public affairs office, said the military’s firs salvo on Saturday killed at least 23 MNFL rebels and the rest killed in the ensuing assault. With  Maricel Cruz, Florante Solmerin and Francisco Tuyay  
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