Learning from Zamboanga
Published by the Visayan Daily Star Publications, Inc.
|NINFA R. LEONARDIA|
Editor-in-Chief & President
NIDA A. BUENAFE
MAJA P. DELY
ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA|
The city hall of Zamboanga was finally reopened after it was shut down by 22 days of clashes between government forces and members of the Moro National Liberation Front that were planning to seize city hall so they could raise their flag of an “independent Bangsamoro Republik”.
Twenty-four government troops, 12 civilians, and 189 MNLF members were killed, and scores were injured in the clashes that started September 9 when close to 500 rebels attacked barangays Sta. Catalina and Sta. Barbara, just 300 meters away from city hall. The senseless fighting displaced more than 100,000 people, paralyzed business in one of Mindanao’s major urban centers and caused at least P4-billion in damage.
The innocent people of Zamboanga are not the only ones who have paid and are still paying the price for the misguided actions of the MNLF and its leaders. The incursion has put the peace and order situation of the entire Mindanao in a terrible light and its effect on investors may take years to reverse, all thanks to a group of disgruntled rebels who decided that laying siege to a peaceful city would be a good idea.
As the city of Zamboanga continues clearing operations and tries to get back on its feet, the national government has to do all it can to ensure that a similar situation can never happen again. The first would be to improve intelligence services, especially in Mindanao because no matter how the military brass tries to put it, the bottom line is that they were outwitted by the MNLF when it managed to sneak in arms and ammunition into the city in preparation for the siege. Secondly, someone must be held responsible, arrested, and punished accordingly. If it is established that MNLF founding Chairman Nur Misuari is ultimately responsible for this large-scale death and destruction, then he has to face the full force of the law. A government that cannot decisively punish the mastermind behind the attack on Zamboanga City is doomed to see history repeat itself.
The attack on Zamboanga City cannot happen again. Misguided madmen should never be able to raid peaceful cities, hold hostages and kill children with impunity. Not in Zamboanga City, not in any other town or city in Mindanao, not in the Philippines.*