Thursday, September 9, 2021

Zamboanga remembers ‘MNLF siege’

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Mayor Beng Climaco led officials in commemorating the deadly siege by Moro National Liberation Front in September 9, 2013 – the second since 2001 after rebels attacked Zamboanga City and killed and held hostages dozens of innocent civilians.

Mayor Beng Climaco
MNLF chieftain Nur Misuari

Climaco has set September 9 as a “Special Day of Remembrance” in honor of all those who perished in the siege that lasted for 3 weeks. And eight years after the deadly attack, residents here are still crying for justice which remains elusive for the innocent victims of the siege.  

Today, Zamboanga City marks the 8th year remembrance of the 2013 siege by Moro National Liberation Front fighters. What better way to honor this day and pay tribute to those who perished and the destruction of the 23-day urban warfare than the turnover rites for some projects under the Zamboanga City Roadmap to Recovery, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (Z3R) Program,” she said. 

Climaco, who chairs the Local Inter-Agency Council that oversees the Z3R Program, said not all projects have been completed. She lamented that despite her August 31 ultimatum to private contractors to finish the construction of the Z3R housing units for some 720 families displaced by the siege were not completed due to some legal issues that have yet to be resolved to pursue the projects. 

Photos from the Housing and Land Management Division show the progress of construction works at the Z3R project site.

The mayor specifically cited the 720 housing units which remain uncompleted and a housing backlog by 114 over the period of eight years since the siege. She said there are legal issues that the National Housing Authority (NHA) has yet to resolve in the purchase of lots. Also delaying the projects, she said, are the illegal structures that need to be demolished first. 

The contractors are expected to turn over some of the projects to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) being the implementing agency of the projects. The DPWH will then turn over the completed projects to the local government and among them are the access road in the village of Kasanyangan, the boardwalk and energization projects in Mariki village. 

Climaco said the local government’s Housing Division will not accept uncompleted and substandard projects. The mayor repeatedly reminded various government agencies and private contractors of her ultimatum to finish all construction projects and even said that she will invite President Rodrigo Duterte to inaugurate the projects.

Different government agencies and private contractors committed to speed up works on the Z3R projects after Salazar’s ultimatum to expedite completion of the projects and to ensure the remaining victims of the siege who are in temporary shelters be given permanent housing units. 

“As mayor and chairperson of LIAC, I have given the agencies concerned a deadline until August 2021 to finish the construction of the housing units and award them to the target beneficiaries - the internally displaced people,” she said, adding, “we want our IDPs to know that we have not forgotten them even as we are currently coping with the Covid pandemic,” the mayor said, adding her directive was in line with Duterte’s instructions to all government agencies to have their projects, programs and activities completed before his term ends next year.

Last year, Climaco also directed LIAC members to ensure continuity of various projects and programs amid the Covid-19 pandemic to help alleviate the plight of families displaced by the MNLF siege.

Supporters of Misuari attacked Zamboanga after declaring independence and their failed attempt to raise the Bangsamoro Republik flag at City Hall. Misuari publicly denied involvement in the siege of Zamboanga that displaced over 200,000 people and affected the economies of Basilan and Sulu which are dependent on Zamboanga for their trades and goods.

2013 MNLF siege (Mindanao Examiner Photos)

Climaco - who stood firm against the MNLF during the entire period of the crisis - has banned any so-called peace rally or gathering of the MNLF members in Zamboanga City. She said such rallies will not be allowed as this might disturb Zamboanga anew. “I am giving you a categorical no; you must not disturb Zamboanga anymore. If you want to come up with your rally, make it in your area, Zamboanga will not welcome a rally by MNLF, not at this time because you still have to be accountable with the killings and devastations we are suffering from,” she said.

“The destruction wrought by the 2013 siege continues to linger, as internally displaced persons – both Muslims, Christians and Lumads, most of whom are those who eluded the conflicts in Sulu and Basilan – have suffered the brunt of the MNLF attack in Zamboanga,” she added.

Misuari signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996 ending decades of bloody war. After the peace agreement was signed, Misuari became the governor of the Muslim autonomous region. But despite the peace accord, he said there was a widespread disillusionment with the weak autonomy they were granted.

Under the peace agreement, Manila would have to provide a mini-Marshal Plan to spur economic development in Muslim areas in the south and livelihood and housing assistance to tens of thousands of former rebels to uplift their poor living standards.

It was the second attack by MNLF in the past decade. In November 2001, hundreds of MNLF members occupied the Cabatangan Complex and held hostage dozens of civilians, including children; and another group also attacked a military base in Sulu province in an effort to stop the elections in the Muslim autonomous region after Misuari was ousted as governor.

More than 100 people were killed in the fighting and in the end, then Mayor Maria Clara Lobregat allowed the attackers to leave Zamboanga in exchange for the hostages. Misuari then escaped by boat to Malaysia, where he had been arrested and deported to the Philippines and was eventually pardoned and released by President Gloria Arroyo reportedly in exchange for MNLF support to her election bid as well as her allies in the Senate and Congress in 2004.

He also ran several times for governor in Sulu even while under detention, but lost. Now, President Rodrigo Duterte said he wanted to resume the peace process with Misuari and ordered police and military not to arrest the MNLF chieftain. (Mindanao Examiner)

No comments: