Surrender is honorable, AFP tells MNLF
MANILA, Philippines - The military yesterday renewed its call for members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)’s Misuari faction to surrender, saying this could be an "honorable option."
“The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) is reiterating its call for Ustadz Khabir Malik’s group to surrender and to take responsibility for their actions,” AFP public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said. “They must consider that surrender is also an honorable option.”
The military issued the statement after officials of the MNLF’s Misuari faction said they did not intend to give up.
MNLF senior spokesman Absalom Cerveza said they are adopting a “no retreat no surrender stance” and would continue their struggle for independence.
MNLF chairman Nur Misuari declared independence from the Philippines days before the fighting in Zamboanga City broke out. Misuari reportedly sought international intervention in seeking a way out of the crisis in Zamboanga.
Malacañang, however, said the MNLF is apparently in disarray and engaging in double talk, pointing out the Indonesian government had clarified there was no such request from the group to intervene.
Indonesia also distanced itself from the negotiations regarding the siege and said it could only relay the messages between the two parties.
The government also said there would be no intervention from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and Indonesia for now. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the MNLF spokespersons were even falling prey to people identifying themselves as him or Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II and who had been sending messages through text supposedly to relay the government’s position on certain matters.
Lacierda and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said the Philippine government was the one that asked Indonesia to open communication lines to assist in finding a peaceful resolution to the Zamboanga crisis, to which it agreed and accordingly gave instructions to its embassy here.
Deles said embassy officials explained to them that “this meant that their lines would be open to receive and transmit messages from one side to the other but that they did not see it to be within their role to proactively make a call to either side.”
Deles said they relayed to Indonesia on Tuesday and to the entire OIC peace committee on Thursday their request for them to help in any way in resolving the situation.
“None of the eight countries present offered a proposal. We understand from Indonesia, that in the several times they received a message from the Misuari group last week, the only topic they raised was regarding travel arrangements to attend the meeting in Yogyakarta, until they asked for postponement of meeting last Thursday. In response to our inquiry, they clarified that the Misuari group never asked or offered to talk about resolving the crisis in Zamboanga,” Deles said.
“In response to our inquiry, they clarified that the Misuari group never asked or offered to talk about resolving the incident in Zamboanga,” she added.
Lacierda said they would not want to comment further on this communication with the OIC or Indonesia.
On Friday night, Vice President Jejomar Binay said Misuari wanted a ceasefire but President Aquino rejected his condition that his forces be allowed safe conduct pass for the conflict to end.
Lacierda said the MNLF must have underestimated Aquino to think that he would allow the rebels to walk away.
“A crime has already happened... if they intended to do a Cabatangan template in 2001, that’s something that they underestimated this administration,” he said. Lacierda was referring to the November 2001 Cabatangan complex siege by the forces of Misuari led by his nephew, the late Julhambri Misuari. The younger Misuari took dozens of civilians as human shields and managed to escape after they were given safe conduct pass by local authorities.
According to Lacierda, officials in charge to resolve the Zamboanga incident, led by President Aquino himself, had been seeking peaceful means to end the conflict but Misuari had been difficult to deal with.
“We have already spoken. We have sent people to talk to Nur Misuari. Obviously, Nur Misuari was thinking of something else. He wanted a safe conduct pass. Is that something acceptable? If you take the statements of (Defense) Secretary (Voltaire) Gazmin when he said, ‘If I know the President, he will not agree to a safe conduct pass’,” Lacierda said.
Lacierda in effect confirmed reports that a safe conduct for the rebel forces was the condition set by Misuari when he talked to Binay about a possible ceasefire but which Aquino rejected.
There were earlier reports, however, that Misuari was disowning the attacks.
Lacierda also said he no longer wanted to dignify the statements of MNLF spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla, whom he said was obviously gullible to believe a supposed text message from a government official without even verifying it.
“I don’t even know the number of attorney Fontanilla... In fact, he was very adamant that we were exchanging text messages,” Lacierda said.
Lacierda said Fontanilla had been mouthing a lot of lies and propaganda. He added Fontanilla and Cerveza, a member of the MNLF peace panel, had also been issuing conflicting statements. “They’re not talking from the same messaging line, so they have to get their act together. They might end up fighting each other,” Lacierda said.
He said Fontanilla was claiming the MNLF wanted a peace rally while Cerveza said they went for war for independence.
“This is the reason why it would be too confusing to talk to them,” Lacierda said. – Aurea Calica, Pia Lee-Brago, Jose Rodel Clapano