Warns of possible MNLF infiltration
The Philippine National Police placed Metro Manila on heightened alert against any threat to security peace and order, even as President Benigno Aquino III said he was not imposing a deadline on the standoff between government forces and the Nur Misuari-led Moro National Liberation Front which entered its 11th day on Thursday.
According to Senior Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac, public information officer of the PNP, the directive released by Police Director Marcelo Garbo actually started since Friday last week.
Gotcha. A Muslim rebel is handcuffed after being presented to reporters at a police station even as a Cebu Pacific plane lands in Zamboanga City after flights were suspended last week as a result of the fighting there. AFP
“His (Garbo’s) rationale for declaring a heightened alert all over the National Capital Region are for three reasons: the ongoing standoff in Zamboanga City, the bombing incidents in Davao City, and the perceived effect of the pork-barrel issue,” Sindac said.
Sindac, however, immediately clarified they “have not received any significant information of any serious threat inside the metropolis.”
“He (Garbo) has taken it upon himself to just heighten the alertness of the police force in Metro Manila so that our policemen will be on guard and they will of course be more conscientious in their respective police stations,” he said.
Sindac said that they are not discounting reports that some MNLF rebels are already in Metro Manila. He also urged members of the Muslim communities in the metropolis to report any existence of militants in their respective areas.
Places that were tightened with security measures are places of convergence including malls and transport hubs like terminals, bus terminals, airports, among others.
Under the alert level, Sindac said there is “target hardening” which means they are intensifying intelligence gathering and operation if necessary.
As this developed, Aquino, who has opted to remain in Zamboanga City to oversee the “clearing operations” against the Nur Misuari-led MNLF rebels,said he would not impose a deadline to end the conflict because the military was intent on saving the lives of the hostages.
In a press briefing, Aquino said MNLF fighters loyal to Nur Misuari are still holding about 20 civilian hostages in Zamboanga.
He also accused Misuari of testing the tolerance of government by declaring independence and then bearing arms during a supposed peace march.
He said that as President and commander-in-chief, he is responsible in making sure that ordinary Filipinos can live in peace.
The President has been in Zamboanga City since last week to oversee the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) operations against the MNLF.
He said he was working behind the scenes to help lessen the effects of the Zamboanga crisis, including making sure that basic needs such as food are available and there is cash for urgent requirements.
A rough estimate by the Department of Social Welfare and Development showed that relief and rehabilitation efforts for Zamboanga would cost about P3.9 billion. Aquino said the government has enough funds to rehabilitate Zamboanga once the conflict with Misuari’s group is over.
The President said he wants to stay in Zamboanga until the conflict ends and all plans for its rehabilitation are laid out.
“I am both Commander-in-Chief and the President, therefore, at the end of the day, everything is my responsibility, so I am very involved—from everything to getting briefed and putting some of my inputs into the security operations,” he said.
The President made the statement amid sporadic fighting in the city that left a lone soldier dead in Barangay Sta. Catalina on Thursday, despite earlier announcements that the military had started its “clearing operations” in “constriction” areas where the remaining rebels with hostages had holed up.
The slain soldier was the 12th fatality from the government’s side since fighting broke out a week ago, after Misuari’s men of about more or less 200 fighters led by Habier Malik intruded into the city for their “war for independence” on September 9.
The military said sporadic fighting started at around 6 a.m. while soldiers were conducting house-to-house search.
The 289-member House of Representatives, meanwhile, has agreed to allot at least P10,000 from the monthly salaries of the congressmen for the victims of the Zamboanga City crisis.
In House Resolution 3, principally authored by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II and Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora, the congressmen agreed on provide financial assistance to the victims of the Zamboanga City crisis through a voluntary one-time donation deductible from the monthly salary of each lawmaker.
The resolution, adopted Wednesday night, was approved by multi-partisan and independent lawmakers.
A total of P2.89 million in financial aid is expected to be raised by the Lower House should all members participate in the voluntary contribution intended to address their urgent subsistence needs such as food and drinking water.
Belmonte stressed the need for immediate aid and relief for the Zamboanga City crisis victims during this most difficult time of strife.
“The House of Representatives hereby extends financial assistance to the victims of this crisis which has resulted in massive damage to property and infrastructure, and adversely affected the livelihood of the people of Zamboanga,” he said.
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross has announced that it would step up its response capability to save the lives of civilians in Zamboanga.
ICRC Philippine chapter chief Pascal Mauchle said that their decision to double time its assistance efforts is due to the increasing numbers of Filipinos fleeing their homes amid ongoing clashes between the government and MNLF rebels.
Since the clashes, the ICRC and Philippine Red Cross personnel had worked to ensure that the people sheltering in the city stadium have access to drinking water, food, medical attention and other vital aid.
In another development, the French government has warned its citizens to exercise a “high degree of caution” when traveling to parts of Mindanao (south of Manila) due to the continuing threat to Westerners and Western interests, as well as the ongoing conflict in Zamboanga.
France is the 6th country which has issued a travel advisory against travelling the Philippines, after Hong Kong, United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. With Francisco Tuyay, Maricel V. Cruz, Sarah Susanne Fabunan and Joyce Pangco-Panares