The House of Representatives has condemned the “needless violence” instigated by a rebel faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Zamboanga City.
“(This) is definitely not at all the solution to achieve the peace sought by our brothers in Mindanao and by the Aquino government,” Speaker Felicianto Belmonte Jr. said in a statement.
Belmonte, who also sits as honorary chairman of the National Unity Party (NUP), pointed out that Congress can become the third-party venue for the Executive Branch and the MNLF so that both sides could come to terms and iron out their differences on the negotiating table.
“Violence has never been a solution to what the MNLF admitted is a political problem. There is no need for casualties and to displace thousands of our people and disrupt their lives in an ironic fight with peace as supposedly the end product,” Belmonte said.
He also said that there is no need to involve an international body to mediate between the government and the MNLF.
“Currently, peace talks are taking place with the MILF, as the government is still very determined to achieve a just and lasting peace in Mindanao. Whatever needs to be discussed with the MNLF, on the other hand, can be brought to a negotiating table,” the Speaker said.
The clashes between government troops and Moro rebels entered its eighth day on Monday, September 16.
Earlier, Belmonte noted that Atty. Emmanuel Fontanilla, Misuari's spokesman, denied that the MNLF initiated the attacks. Fontanilla “claimed this was a diversionary act of the Palace, which is utterly ridiculous as statistics of the thousands affected by the infiltration of the MNLF do not lie and the current crisis is serious,” the Speaker said.
The heavy fighting has so far killed at least 52 people and wounded 56 others, according to news reports. Over 65,000 people have fled from their homes in Zamboanga as of Sunday afternoon.
Former Deputy Speaker and now Zamboanga Mayor Beng Climaco has already set a curfew in the city to protect the thousands of individuals and families affecting six districts, Belmonte said.
On Saturday, Climaco called on Zamboanga residents to remain “united and strong” amid the “heartbreaking and upsetting” situation now prevailing in their city.