MANILA - The government can’t really say if Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) commander Ustadz Habier Malik is one of the casualties in the Zamboanga City siege.
"We can’t say if Malik is already dead or Malik had been captured because the focus of the operation is to rescue hostages," Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said.
Government forces were able to recover Malik’s identifications cards from the body of a dead rebel. It was later established the body was not Malik’s.
"Now, if Malik escaped, I’m sure he will not do it again (or) it will take a long, long time before he can launch another offensive like that. They (MNLF) saw the might of the government, how the government defended our countrymen," he added.
He said they do not have information if Malik has indeed evaded arrest and is now in Sulu.
"I don’t know if that is true. He would be so lucky (if he escaped). And if that happened, the first he will do is to run after [Nur Misuari] because he was deceived. He was disowned by Misuari."
Nonetheless, Gazmin lauded the soldiers involved in the operations in the past three weeks.
"I am happy and proud of the soldiers for the courage they displayed, the dedication they displayed for our country,” he said.
He cited one of the soldiers who went to battle even after sustaining heavy wounds. “If you cannot call that heroism, I don't know the term. That is true heroism," he said.