Bangsamoro rally in Zambo called off; mayor cites security reasons

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanews/04 May) — Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar denied the the request of the Mindanao Alliance for Peace (MAP) to hold a rally at Plaza Pershing on Sunday, supposedly simultaneous with rallies in other parts of Mindanao to push Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law immediately.

“As mayor of the city, I am accountable to the people and so my decisions will have to be for the greater interest of the majority. I cannot take the risk of allowing the rally given the situation we have gone through in the September siege. The security of the people is paramount,” she told a press briefing Sunday morning.

Salazar said she arrived at the decision based on the recommendation of the police and military authorities and for the interest of the majority of the Zamboangueños.

“Since Zamboanga City is not part of the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) nor will it be part of the Bangsamoro core territory, we cancelled the rally. We support all peace initiatives as this will help the people of Mindanao,” Salazar said.

The city has yet to recover from a 21-day standoff between government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in September 2013. Thousands of residents remain in evacuation centers.

Salazar said she met Saturday night with the security sector and other stakeholders including representatives from the International Monitoring Team (IMT), Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), the vice mayor, City Legal Officer and City Administrator as well as representatives of rally organizers in City Hall, where the rally was exhaustively discussed and where the group ultimately decided to cancel it for the good of the greater majority.

Salazar assured representatives of the organizers that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law will be taken up in Congress as this is the priority of the President.

Salazar said she followed the guidance of police and military authorities for the safety and security of the residents.

Senior Supt. Angelito Casimiro, Zamboanga City police officer-in-charge, said they noticed various discrepancies upon review of the MAP request to hold a rally Sunday at the Plaza Pershing

For one, in case of any eventuality, the authorities cannot pinpoint responsibility as the letter was signed by MAP chair Addulmanan Gayak but the same was being followed up by Saudi Daranda of the Mindanao Action for Peace and Development (MAPAD).

The letter was submitted to City Hall only at 4 p.m. Friday, May 2, or one hour before the end office hours.

Representatives of the organizers present during the meeting were Daranda, Taha Paranda who is the Secretary-General of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Zamboanga, Hatta Said of MAP and a representative of the Al Mhuminat, a women’s group.

Casimiro said the representatives of the organizer would not also present the proposed rally’s program flow, the names of the resource persons including the expected number of participants.

“We cannot compromise security,” he added.

Police and soldiers from the Task Force Zamboanga were noted to have been deployed in the strategic areas of the city although the rally did not push through.

A team from the civil disturbance management police was deployed in City Hall.

“The deployment of police and military forces in strategic areas downtown and the outlying barangays is part of the preemptive security measures to safeguard the city and people,” said City Hall information officer Sheila Covarrubias. (MindaNews)