Our greatest challenge PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 10 September 2015 11:41



San Jose, CA. — What happened at dawn of September 9, 2013 was our worst nightmare that turned out to be our greatest challenge ever as a highly-urbanized city. We found ourselves in the crossroads as Zamboanga was rocked by days of gunfire, conflagration and death. It was an impossibility that we would have come under brutal attack when Zamboanga is supposed to be well guarded in the east by the Philippine National Police and the Western Mindanao Command in the west, plus an elite police force right in the middle of the city, supported by a crack city mobile force. But it happened, despite repeated warnings that the rebels were coming.

Up to now, the reason for the attack by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) on Zamboanga is still unclear. Was the MNLF trying to make a suicidal point by unleashing a bunch of heavily-armed marauders to get the attention of the national government about the organization’s dissatisfaction over its non-inclusion in the peace process that will abolish the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and create a new political entity for the Muslims? Or was it a test for a much bigger assault on Zamboanga after a new Bangsamoro political entity is created?

The MNLF sees the present ARMM as having been created for them. The new ARMM, or whatever the government wants to call it, is seen by the MNLF AS A CREATION FOR THE MILF. That’s probably why they went to ‘war’.

Four barangays were ravaged during the MNLF siege, displacing the very people Nur Misuari was professing to liberate from misery. The government provided food, shelter and clothing for the displaced families.

Misuari ordered his men to get city hall, create chaos and burn the entire city. How could a well-educated man terrorize his own people?

That attack and the days that followed the dark and gloomy episode was Zamboanga’s greatest test — a trial, greater than bravely scaling Mount Everest and conquering it. It united our people, even without those corny slogans crafted by politicians.

We rebounded miraculously from the throwback as our leaders navigated our city to rapid economic recovery. The story was resounding, resonating all over the world that we stood for the oppressed, the poor and the destitute and the downtrodden — they who lost their homes and treasured belongings.

We survived a bloody attack on our shores, a horrifying experience probably not seen since the Japanese occupation.

Two years after the human crisis, how is Zamboanga’s economic recovery doing? Pretty well, I read. Shops and malls are coming up. Employment is up, jobs are aplenty and people are happy and feel secure again.

For that sterling accomplishment, Mayor Ma. Isabel G. Climaco-Salazar should be hailed and held up high because she kept the city together — despite being a woman who many thought couldn’t lead a city besieged with all sorts of crimes that came with population growth.

Hail, Beng. You deserve a second vote.