Army tank near Misuari's home raises tension

By Queenie Casimiro, ABS-CBN News Zamboanga

Posted at Jul 26 2013 09:37 PM | Updated as of Jul 27 2013 05:37 AM

ZAMBOANGA CITY – The military on Friday deployed an armored personnel carrier (APC) tank to Barangay San Roque, Zamboanga City where members of the Moro National Liberation Front have been convening since Thursday.

The presence of the military tank and several soldiers and policemen raised tension in the village and the whole of Zamboanga City.

Several text messages have been circulating for a week now regarding an alleged plan of the MNLF to create a rally or disturbance.

MNLF founder Nur Misuari in his press conference on Thursday, however, denied that they have plans of disturbing the peace in Zamboanga City.

Task Force Zamboanga Commanding Officer Col. Andrelino Colina also denied that they consider Misuari and his men as threats to the security of the city.

The deployment of the soldiers and putting up of checkpoints are part of a military routine, he said.

He also said the tank has long been on standby in their camp and needs to be brought out once in a while.

On Friday, top military and police officials gathered in a closed-door meeting at the Western Mindanao Command, as they received information that together with Misuari is a certain Daniel Xavier, who allegedly introduced himself as a representative of the United Nations.

However, no individual from the United Nations was introduced to the media during the press conference.

Security was tight during the almost 3-hour press conference held in Misuari's home. Members of the media entering the compound were frisked and were made to turn off their cellular phones and remove the battery of their cameras.

They were also told to position the camera fronting Misuari and were prohibited from taking other shots inside the compound.

Reporters estimated that around 50 MNLF members were inside the compound, apart from those who waited outside.

Meanwhile, Zamboanga District 2 Representative Celso Lobregat called on the MNLF not to hold any of their activities in Zamboanga City as the city is not part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Lobregat said the presence of Misuari and his men only revived the memory of the Cabatangan Siege, wherein MNLF rebels held hostage over a hundred residents of Fairview Drive in Sta. Maria and Cabatangan Villages.

In a statement read by her staff, Mayor Maria Isabel Climaco-Salazar called on her constituents not to believe the rumors being circulated through text messages.

She asked the people to be cautious in forwarding such messages as these only create more confusion and tension among the people.

She denied that a curfew has been imposed and maintained that classes in all levels in the city remain normal.

The lady mayor also assured the public that the police and the military are exerting all efforts to keep the security in the city intact.

Sources told ABS-CBN that the MNLF members will be leaving for Jolo, Sulu, Friday night.