GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/20 September) — Since the other day, by the media reports, the military has started the final stage of its operation to mop up the remaining MNLF “invaders” of Zamboanga City. The government forces are in house-to-house search for “stragglers” as the MNLF fighters are said to have run low of ammunition and are desperately looking for ways to escape back to Sulu and Basilan.
According to military and government sources: (1)178 civilian hostages have escaped or been freed leaving “around 21” to be rescued; (2) of the about 200 MNLF fighters, only around 50 have been left; 86 have been killed while the others have either surrendered or been captured; (3) eleven soldiers and four civilians have been killed; (4) about 100,000 people have been displaced; schools have been closed; business and other operations have practically been at a standstill.
The above is according to Inquirer.net, September 18. A philstar.com report of the same date said 14 government troops had been killed and 117 wounded. Of the MNLF rebels, 86 had been killed and 93 captured. MindaNews, September 17, said the Zamboanga City police chief – reported as having been abducted — brought back 30 surrenderees.
The President has issued an ultimatum as the military has told the remaining rebels to surrender – the only honorable thing to do. This is rubbing salt into wounded Moro pride. The call would instead spur the MNLF rebels to fight to the last man — to their last bullet. Yesterday, a military junior officer was reported killed during the mopping up operation; the navy was in the alert for possible reinforcement.
The statistics of death and wounded, the cost of war and the collateral damages are saddening. Are these necessary? To reiterate, blame it on tactical errors.
Someone asked: Is there a way to prevent the Zamboanga City incident from recurring? I said: That depends on Misuari. And Misuari is undependable — his mind, I mean. Philippine Daily Inquirer, in its September 12 editorial, called Misuari “history’s spoiled child”. He would tantrum to get attention. He still has support of loyal followers and the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation).
“End of the Road for Misuari?”, was H. Marcos Mordeno’s topic in his September 18 MindaViews column. He has reached that many years back; but blind to that end, he has kept on going. His past tantrums were encouraging; he got the attention and much, if not all, the concessions he had wanted.
Apparently, what does Misuari want to achieve by his tragic Zamboanga City caper? Catch two birds with one stone – one tantrum. One bird: The GPH-MILF peace negotiation – he wants it stopped since the MNLF is not represented. The other bird: The GRP-OIC-MNLF tripartite review of the full implementation of the 1996 FPA – he wants the government to accept his demands.
Last month, he repeated for the nth time the declaration of the Bangsamoro Republik – this time including the Malaysian federal states of Sabah and Sarawak. Obviously, the Zamboanga City “invasion” is his gambit. His message for the Aquino government: if you don’t give me the two birds, I’ll continue this war of independence.
Unfortunately for Misuari, the Aquino government has called his bluff – his tantrum. The President sounds firm and stern. To the MNLF fighters, he said: “Surrender now or face the full force of the government” (Inquirer Mindanao: September 19). Obviously, to Misuari, his advisers and spokesmen” “We will talk only to those who want peace” (Inquirer.net, September 19). This is Aquino’s response to Misuari’s offer to free the hostages in exchange for the fighters’ safe passage back to Sulu and Basilan.
Does this mean a bloody end for the MNLF fighters still fighting? It depends on Misuari. The President said he will stay in Zamboanga City “until the crisis is over” (philstar.com, September 19). Does he want peace? The President, by his dictum, will talk to him. With an olive leaf, he should seek the President while still in Zamboanga City. The bloody ending as the end of the crisis can be avoided.
Misuari’s demand for the “one bird” is only to satisfy his pride. According to Secretary Deles, the MNLF had been invited to nominate delegates to the Bangsamoro Transition Commission. The BBL draft is where the MNLF and the MILF can complement each other’s vision of the Bangsamoro. Misuari declined the invitation. The fact I see is: For Misuari, for MNLF to sit with MILF is undignified. He is looking at 1976, not 2013.
His demand for the “other bird” is out of order by Deles’ account. The bill to amend RA 9054, end phase of the review, is ready for submission to the Congress. However, Misuari would not agree to until his three additional demands are granted. Two of them, Deles said, had been complied with (plebiscite on territory and provisional government); the third had already been agreed upon (sharing on strategic materials). Obviously, the compliance and the agreement did not satisfy Misuari.
In short, all depends on Misuari.
But former President Fidel V. Ramos disagrees. All the mess is the making of the Aquino III government. He has advised President Aquino to clean up the mess. Don’t blame Misuari.
The mess is there for all to see. Who is primarily responsible? We will discuss this in a separate COMMENT. [Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is specifically an opinion on current news. [email protected]]