Respect gun ban in Zambo, Celso urges ARMM officials PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 12 January 2011 11:45

Mayor Celso Lobregat has reiterated his sincerest appeal to all government officials and law enforcers from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to respect the gun ban whenever they come and visit Zamboanga City.

Lobregat made the appeal during the meeting between Cabinet officials led by Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo and the top ARMM government officials and police officers in one of the hotels here yesterday morning.

Also present in the meeting were Education Secretary Armin Luistro and Philippine National Police chief Director General Raul Bacalzo. Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Ding Deles failed to come but was represented by a member of the government panel talking peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Mayor Lobregat took the podium when a reporter inquired about his presence in the meeting purportedly exclusive for ARMM officials, considering that Zamboanga City is not part of the autonomous region.

“That is a very relevant question,” he responded to the reporter. “I came here upon the invitation of Sec. Robredo and I am here because whatever happens in the ARMM areas like Basilan and Sulu, Zamboanga City stands greatly affected,” the mayor explained.

“I appeal again to all ARMM officials, not just the elected ones but also the police, to respect our gun ban in Zamboanga City,” Lobregat stressed as he voiced out observations that warring factions from the ARMM usually settle their difference with violence when they cross path in the city.

To recall, most of the shooting incidents in the city have been attributed to feuding groups from the ARMM, the latest of which was the killing of a port official, Abdulhamin Bandahala, inside a hotel at Gov. Camins Monday morning. At least five suspects including a policeman were arrested shortly after the incident.

For his part, Robredo, who was moderating the open forum cum press conference, shared with Lobregat’s sentiments and quipped in this wise: “What Mayor Lobregat wants is that, if you don’t follow (the gun ban) don’t come to Zamboanga.”

It was learned during the meeting that the Province of Basilan had registered the highest crime volume in 2010 among all other ARMM areas with the Province of Tawi-Tawi having the least crime volume.

Records of the ARMM-PNP showed that most of the crimes in the autonomous region were attributed to the proliferation of private armed groups mostly under certain politicians, the presence of the Abu Sayyaf Group and other threat groups like the MILF and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). These crimes included shootouts, kidnappings and bombings, among others.

Of the seven poorest of the poor provinces in Mindanao, according to the report, five are located in the ARMM, where most people have the lowest income, if there was any. While development efforts are heavily concentrated in the ARMM, still there was not enough for the entire autonomous region, the report further revealed.

It was recommended to ask the national government under the leadership of President Noynoy Aquino to increase ARMM’s infrastructure allocation presently pegged at P1 billion annually.

Sec. Robredo, however, retorted by saying that the Aquino administration has yet to seriously resolve all the problems besetting the ARMM from local governance to fiscal and peace and order problems. “We have to fix first before any increase of assistance.”

Robredo also pointed out that the DILG under his leadership will not allow absentee chief executives. “We will not hesitate to suspend any local chief executive found absent in his jurisdiction.”

The DILG chief issued the warning following reports that most local chief executives like governors, mayors and congresspersons in the ARMM are frequenting Zamboanga City. “We ask you, the media and the general public, to help us monitor the whereabouts of your elected officials,” he appealed. -- Vic Larato