‘End in any way crisis in Zambo’
Despite claiming that it was gaining ground in the Zamboanga City standoff which has entered its ninth day Tuesday, the Aquino government still sought the help of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to “help in any way” to end the crisis.
The OIC, however, only committed to receive and transmit messages from one side to the other.
Presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles said none of the eight member-countries of the OIC Peace Committee on Southern Philippines, chaired by Indonesia, offered a proposal to take a more pro-active role to end the siege.
Free again. Two-year-old Yuyen de Guzman, one of the dozens of hostages freed following an assault by the military on Muslim rebels, is reunited with his parents at a police camp in Zamboanga City on Tuesday. Below, Social Welfare workers and volunteers repack relief that will be distributed to the evacuees in the city. AFP and Danny Pata
“We were the ones who asked Indonesia to open their communication lines to assist in finding peaceful resolution to the Zamboanga incident to which they agreed and accordingly gave instructions to their embassy here.
Embassy officials explained to us that this meant that their lines would be open to receive and transmit messages from one side to the other, but they did not see it to be within their role to pro-actively make a call to either side,” Deles said in a statement.
“We relayed to Indonesia last Tuesday and to the entire OIC Peace Committee last Thursday our request if they could help in any way in resolving the incident. None of the eight countries present offered a proposal,” she added.
As this developed, Zamboanga City police chief Senior Supt. Jose Chiquito Malayo, who had been reported abducted by Moro National Liberation Front rebels early Tuesday, had been released later in the day, according to a television report.
Malayo’s release was confirmed by Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, who said Malayo was even able to convince 23 MNLF fighters to surrender.
“I am pleased to inform you that Zambo City director Senior Superintendent Chiquito Malayo has successfully convinced 23 MNLF fighters to come into the fold of the law. He and the 23 are enroute back from Brgy. Mampang being escorted by Regional Director chief Chief Superintendent Boy Vano,” Roxas said.
A television footage showed Malayo being transported inside a van together with the MNLF rebels.
The Philippine National Police earlier reported that Malayo was earlier seen negotiating for the release of the hostages in Bgy. Mampang in Zamboanga City when the rebels held him at gunpoint.
The military said Malayo’s kidnapping was ordered by Habier Malik, the commander of the MNLF forces in Zamboanga City.
It said that Malayo “was making arrangements with the MNLF Misuari Faction forces for the release of civilian hostages when he was himself abducted at gunpoint and held hostage by the rebel group.”
Military spokesman spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala, meanwhile, said the rebels had been swept out of 70 percent of neighborhoods they had initially controlled and reduced to a few dozen fighters, down from an estimated 200 when the conflict began.
“They (the rebels) have nearly run out of bullets. They are practically defeated,” Zagala said.
In one of the biggest victories, Zagala said 123 hostages had been freed in a battle with rebels on Tuesday morning that left three soldiers dead.
Thirty rebels had been killed over the past 24 hours, according to Zagala. This brought the total number of MNLF fatalities to 86, with nine security forces and four civilians also killed.
But Zagala acknowledged that the rebels remained a threat, as they hid in homes and possibly continued to hold civilians as hostages.
Also on Tuesday, at least 100 hostages escaped and 12 rebels killed at the height of the clashes on Tuesday.
It added that 90,000 residents had been displaced while hundreds more were trapped because of the ongoing clashes.
The number of MNLF members who were either captured or surrendered also climbed to 67.
PNP chief Gen. Alan Purisima , meanwhile, said the recovered hostages were brought to Camp Eduardo Batalla for medical checkup, debriefing and rest.
The military also reported that from five barangays, the “danger zone” had been reduced to only three as soldiers and policemen were able to flush out the rebels from the two previously rebel-occupied barangays.
In Lamitan, where a combined group of the MNLF, Abu Sayyaf Group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters were reported to have entered Lamitan City in a bid to control the city, there was an apparent news blackout, as the military refrained from giving any update on their pursuit operations against the attackers.
A source said that as of Tuesday, the military has not monitored movements that may indicate another wave of attack.
“We’re closely monitoring them. Since the last fighting and they dispersed they have not regrouped again,” he said.