ZAMBOANGA CITY - A commander of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) National Security Command said the separatist group only wanted to hoist the Bangsamoro Repulik flag in front of the Zamboanga City Hall and was not looking to sow violence in the city.
Commander Asamin Hussin, a follower of MNLF chairman Nur Misuari, said his group will only release the estimated 200 civilian hostages in Barangay Kasanyangan once it is allowed to proceed to the city hall and hoist the flag in front of it.
Aside from the hostages in Barangay Kasanyangan, at least 20 more civilians are believed to be being held in Barangay Sta. Catalina, an urbanized villaged just about a kilometer away from the city hall.
Asamin said the hoisting of the flag signifies that Zamboanga City is now a part of the MNLF-formed Bangsamoro Republik. This claim has received opposition from the city government, which said that the city is not even part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
A government representative has yet to talk to the group for a negotiation. Asamin said this is the reason why he agreed to be interviewed by the media.
There were policemen present in the area. However, they are at least 100 meters away from the hostage group.
Other than Kasanyangan and Sta. Catalina, tension is also being felt in neighboring villages such as Mariki, Rio Hondo, Sta. Barbara, and Talon-Talon.
Commander Asamin claimed at least 2,000 MNLF members from Sulu and Basilan are now in Zamboanga City. This figure, however, is way beyond the military estimate of 200 to 300.
Misuari recently declared independence for Palawan, Zamboanga Peninsula, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, and even North Borneo or Sabah, which is controlled by Malaysia. He called it a "peaceful revolution."
The declaration of independence came amid the MNLF's opposition of the peace pact between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The MNLF argues that the government must not abandon the tripartite review of its 1996 final peace agreement just to accommodate the Framework Agreement for Bangsamoro (FAB) of the MILF.