Statement: The Presidential Spokesperson on the situation in Zamboanga City

Statement of Secretary Edwin Lacierda:
On the situation in Zamboanga City

[September 12, 2013]

Groups opposed to the peace process, or who want to impose a peace solely from their viewpoint and on their terms, have sought to create disturbances. We have witnessed the bombing of Cagayan de Oro City and other similar events.

There have been a lot of text messages circulating, causing confusion and alarm among our people. Let us set the record straight.

Alleged MNLF members wanted to proceed to Zamboanga City bearing arms, supposedly to exercise their right to peaceful assembly. But the right to peaceful assembly cannot be exercised while bearing arms. In fact, when they tried to conduct a “peace rally” in Sulu, they were prevented from doing so because they were armed. Allegedly, they attempted to do the same in Zamboanga City, where some of their members were arrested by the PNP; others were caught in a firefight in the waters off Zamboanga City by elements of the Philippine Navy. And those seeking safety inside coastal barangays have had to disperse.

The forces of the state are ready to exercise the resolve of the government. While the government is exhausting all avenues for a peaceful resolution to the situation, let it be clear to those defying us that they should not entertain the illusion that the state will hesitate to use its forces to protect our people.

Instead, it is time for you to cooperate to resolve this situation peacefully at the soonest possible time.

As for others who seek to take advantage of the situation, you will fail. There has been an encounter in Basilan today when members of the BIFF and ASG, estimated at around 150, ostensibly tried to attack Lamitan City. The armed forces stopped them, and after a two hour firefight, are now in hot pursuit. The BIFF and ASG assumed they could take advantage of the situation. They were wrong. As others who will also make similar attempts will be proven wrong.

To the people of Zamboanga City, your government stands in solidarity with you and is working to ensure your needs are met. The President has directed national government agencies to attend to the needs of the people of Zamboanga City and the BASULTA by providing basic supplies through the DOTC and DTI. We have asked the BSP to ensure sufficient supplies of currency.

We ask further cooperation from the people of Zamboanga City: we reiterate that there are people relishing this situation and who seek to inflame passions for various reasons. Please understand that rumors of abductions of religious leaders and firefights that did not take place, which are spread through anonymous text messages, aim to take advantage of you. Instead, listen to the authorities, who will give you the truth all the time.

We are very pleased with the performance of the Zamboanga City government: Mayor Beng Climaco, despite being new to the job, has demonstrated true leadership. We appeal to those eyeing the coming barangay elections to set aside politics when we are all busy ensuring the safety of our fellow citizens in Zamboanga City.