TALIPAO, Sulu (MindaNews/ 02 October)—The Philippine Marines based in this town early Wednesday hoisted the Philippine flag at the residence of Ustadz Habier Malik in Tuyang village.
“This [Talipao town] is the base also of Maas,” said a resident, who declined to give her name for security reasons.
Maas is the revered title that some Tausugs use in reference to Nur Misuari, founder of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
This morning, MindaNews saw Talipao residents leading the officers and men of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 2 to the village of Tuyang, Malik’s residential area and MNLF homebase in Talipao town.
Malik led the MNLF members who laid siege on some coastal villages in Zamboanga City on September 9. The military is still reportedly checking if he is still alive or was killed after three weeks of clashes that displaced 23,794 families or 118,819 individuals.
“We have conducted a community dialogue with the people there. We did not go there to engage in war. We are there to heal the wounds of war,” Col. Jose Johriel Cenabre, Joint Task Force Sulu and 2nd Marine Brigade commander, told MindaNews.
“The (Philippine) government is in a progressive engagement with the people, and the Marines entered Lampaya and reached Tuyang, the known lair of Ustadz Habier Malik,” he added.
“We all care for the people especially here in Sulu, where the people in the area (of Malik) requested for the presence of the Marines,” Cenabre said.
The Marines used community dialogue as an approach to seek alliance with the people, who themselves led the soldiers to the area, he said.
Malik’s relatives and the remaining MNLF members who were guarding the camp had already abandoned the place when the soldiers arrived.
The Philippine flag was hoisted by 1Lt. Romelito Macaraig.
This was followed by silence from the residents who witnessed the event in reverence to the panji (flag).
“It is all in the name of kahunungan (tranquility) for Lupah Sug (Sulu),” Macaraig said.
As of noon today, forces from the 32nd Marine Company led by 1Lt. Jozen Banatao were deployed in the area. (Frencie Carreon/MindaNews)