House wants probe on Zambo standoff

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 19 September) – The House of Representatives has passed a resolution directing its committee on peace, reconciliation and unity to investigate whether the government unilaterally terminated the tripartite review of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Philippine Government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leading to the standoff in Zamboanga City that started last week.

Filed by Bayan Muna Reps. Carlos Isagani Zarate and Neri Javier Colmenares, House Resolution 302 cited MNLF spokesperson Emmanuel Fontanilla’s statement that the group’s action was triggered by the reported junking of the tripartite review by government.

Fontanilla, as quoted further in the resolution, added the MNLF action was meant to prevent the possible arrest of the group’s founding chair Nur Misuari after “his recent declaration of ‘Mindanao independence’ and in protest of [sic] the increased militarization of MNLF-controlled areas following such declaration.”

But the resolution also noted the denial of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) that the review has been terminated and its statement that it has continued talking [with the MNLF] on the 1996 agreement.

The tripartite review involves the MNLF, Philippine government and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

In its website the OPAPP said the three parties were scheduled to hold the fifth meeting of the tripartite review on Sept. 16 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

But on Sept. 13, it said, the Department of Foreign Affairs received from the Indonesian Embassy a note verbale concerning the postponement of the fifth meeting due to the Zamboanga standoff.

Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also sent a note verbale dated Sept. 12 to the OIC secretary general relaying MNLF’s request for a postponement of the tripartite meeting, “preferably in the first week of October 2013” due to the “situation in Zamboanga City,” the OPAPP added.

The standoff in Zamboanga City, which started last Sept. 9, has reportedly killed at least 80 MNLF fighters, 12 soldiers and some civilians.

At the start of the standoff the MNLF held some 200 civilians as hostages, but most were rescued or escaped as the fighting wore on.