MNLF siege can happen again — former top official PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 04 December 2013 11:15

A former Cabinet secretary and chairman of the government peace panel warned that another assault on Zamboanga City by Moro rebels can happen again unless residents will amend their “feelings of exclusion” towards indigenous peoples living in the city and nearby provinces.

Atty. Jesus Dureza raised the warning in his keynote talk in a forum dubbed “Peace in Mindanao” sponsored by the Interreligious Solidarity for Peace (ISP) in connection with the current observance in the city of Week of Peace 2013, which is from November 28 to December 4.

The siege of the city by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels under the leadership of NurMisuari was a thing waiting to happen, he said.  Mistrust and frustration between Bangsamoros and Christian Zamboanguenos have been rising over the years because of the latter’s refusal to deal in a comprehensive manner with the peace-related problems and their causes.  He exhorted local political leaders to refrain from playing to the gallery – that is, to the cultural prejudices and biases of residents – for the sake of political gains.

“The city is for everybody,” Dureza said.  “The attack was a wake-up call for the city that if it continues to shut itself out of the peace process then the nightmare of such a rebel siege will happen again.”

He said a rebellion is not defeated by military means but by addressing its causes, such as structural violence of poverty, lack of basic social services, destruction of environment and so forth.

Dureza said the martyrdom of the MNLF rebels as perceived by their fellowmen will be replenished by new fighters, and so the conflict will go on and on.

Dureza said Mindanao will not have peace if Zamboanga will not have it first because the city plays a strategic role in terms of geography,  history and cultural relations.

He added that an authority higher than the local leadership should be appointed to marshal peace-making in the city, possibly including the rehabilitation and recovery efforts from the destruction caused by the attack.

The repair of the damage to the social fabric will take longer and will be harder than the restoration of the physical and economic resources and facilities, he noted.

Other speakers in the forum were Fr. Michal Ufana, who gave his insights from his experience as hostage of the rebels, and SorayaSali, who talked about her problems as an evacuee mother of seven children.  Her husband, who was a pedicab driver, was arrested by the military on suspicion of being an MNLF member.

In his welcome and opening remarks, ISP lead convenor and Peace Advocates Zamboanga president Fr. Angel Calvo, CMF urged the government to review its peace process policies and approaches to make it visibly and authentically more inclusive so some cultural groups will not feel left out. This sense of exclusion among some groups spurs them to resort to violence or to sabotage the peace process, he said.

The Week of Peace is also observed in some other cities and provinces in Mindanao.  This year’s local theme is “Lord, Heal our Land”, in reference to the need to repair and heal social relationships damaged by the siege and to rehabilitate the victims’ lives.

The Week was kicked off by a “Solidarity Prayer” rally held in Paseo del Mar last November 28.  Attended by members of various civil society and religious groups including a large contingent of police officers, the rally consisted of prayers led by religious leaders of different faiths and hymns sang by a number of choirs. It was also graced by city mayor Ma. Isabel Climaco-Salazar. — Peace Advocates Zamboanga