Celso brings ‘day of infamy’ sentiment to Congress PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 11 September 2015 14:40

by Jubels Santos

Zamboanga City District 1 Representative Celso Lobregat delivered a personal and collective privilege speech in the House of Representatives on September 9, 2015, exactly two years since the Zamboanga City siege happened in September 9, 2013.

“It is a day of infamy for Zamboanga City.” Lobregat began his speech. “I do not want to commemorate something that is tragic. The day when Zamboanga City siege started – this day and this episode is a painful, tragic and a dark side of Zamboanga City’s history. Perhaps it is best that our Muslim brothers go to the mosques and Christians go to churches to pray that this will never ever happen again.”

It is to be recalled in the early morning of September 9, 2013, elements of the MNLF Misuari forces attacked Zamboanga City led by Habier Malik. They intended to march to city hall to raise the MNLF flag at the city’s seat of power. September 9 was a Monday then when the city government has its flag ceremony. For 21 days, the city was virtually paralyzed and held hostage. Zamboanga City was at a stand still. The people were in shock and in awe. People stayed in their houses, there was no school, stores were closed and so were the banks. All flights were cancelled and there were no boats leaving or arriving in the port of Zamboanga.

The result and aftermath, as of 8AM, September 26, 2013 Evacuees and Displaced Persons: 101,018 total evacuees; 34 evacuation centers. 178 taken hostage were released/rescued. Dead/Killed and Injured: Civilians (Death-12, Injured – 72); Soldiers/Policemen (Killed In Action – 21, Wounded In Action – 179); MNLF (Killed – 119, Arrested – 186, Surrendered – 24). Two barangays namely Mariki and Rio Hondo were almost completely wiped out

Lobregat also mentioned that this was not the first time that Zamboanga City and its people were collateral damage to the peace negotiation because in November 2001, there was the Cabatangan hostage taking. Then the MNLF forces of Nur Misuari occupying the ARMM property in Barangay Cabatangan took hostages, many of them women and children, at gunpoint.

As a background, Lobregat cited that Misuari was elected as ARMM Governor on September 9, 1996 exactly one week after he signed the final peace agreement with the GRP on September 2, 1996. It was so coincidental that Misuari was elected as ARMM Governor on September 9, 1996 and the Zamboanga Siege happened on September 9, 2013.

He also quoted an article from Philstar article by John Unson September 11, 2013, “Nur Misuari as leader of the ARMM and MNLF.” As stated in said article, “It was President Arroyo’s having anointed Hussin as Malacañang’s favored candidate for ARMM governor during the 2001 regional elections that incensed Misuari, who was qualified to seek re-election, which emboldened him to lead a mutiny in Jolo, Sulu two weeks before the electoral exercise.”

There was a mutiny in Jolo of Misuari’s MNLF forces in November 2001, and a few days after the Cabatangan hostage taking took place in Zamboanga City.

Before the Zamboanga siege happened, Lobregat delivered a privilege speech on July 30, 2013, week after the 2013 State of the Nation Address and Opening of the 16th Congress. In said privilege speech, entitled Déjà vu, Lobregat stated: “The founding chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front warned that the group may opt to declare an independent republic if Malacañang pushes with the closure of the GRP-MNLF 1996 Final Peace Accord to accommodate the Framework Agreement for Bangsamoro (FAB) of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).”

Lobregat further said in his July 30, 2013 speech: “We are herewith requesting the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Peace Process and the GPH negotiating panel to address the issues brought about by Nur Misuari concerning the tripartite review process and the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro with the MILF.”

Misuari eventually declared independence in August 12, 2013 and barely a month after, there was the Zamboanga Siege.

“The City of Zamboanga and its people have already suffered more than enough during the Cabatangan Siege in November 27, 2001 and the Zamboanga Crisis starting last September 9, 2013,” Lobregat said.

Today after exactly two years from the start of the Zamboanga City siege, most of the displaced persons are still in temporary relocation centers. The city and its people are still suffering from the physical, psychological and emotional pain, damage and hurt and trying to heal the wounds and rise up once more.

“It is a day of infamy  for Zamboanga City. This day and this episode is a painful, tragic and a dark side of Zamboanga City’s history,” Lobregat ended his speech with prayer and hope that this will never ever happen again. — Jubels Santos