By Cielito Reganit
MANILA, (PNA) — Muslim lawmakers from Mindanao on Monday expressed deep concern over the standoff in Zamboanga City between government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front–Misuari faction.
They urged both sides to end the hostilities not only for the sake of innocent civilians but for the sake of humanity.
In a hastily-called press briefing at the House of Representatives, Sulu Rep. Tupay Loong and Maguindanao Rep.Bai Sandra Sema said that there will be no victors in the ongoing standoff and believed that the underlying issues can only resolved through peaceful means.
They also stressed that all Muslim lawmakers fully support the efforts of President Benigno S. Aquino IIII to resolve the conflict peacefully.
“As Muslim leaders whose constituents are now caught in the crossfire and have fallen victims to this condemnable war, we wish to beg and appeal to our government and the MNLF to listen to the cry of our people to end this war for the sake of the innocent civilians,” they said.
Loong, who chairs the House Committee on Muslim Affairs, said that prolonging the shooting war in Zamboanga would just lead to greater loss of lives and properties.
The conflict, now on its 8th day, has so far claimed about 60 lives and caused the displacement of more than 67,000 evacuees, with many of them having lost their homes and properties from several fires that struck their villages.
The crisis had forced the closure of government offices and schools as well as business establishment in the city.
Nearby towns and provinces were also affected by the conflict.
Loong said he likewise believed that ending the Zamboanga conflict through military actions would not be the end to hostilities with the MNLF.
“The MNLF rebels in the city had reportedly said that they will fight to the end but I doubt if they can last for long,” he noted.
“But this would not prevent other conflicts from arising in other areas. The best way to end the crisis is to stop all armed actions and bring the issues to the negotiating table,” Loong said.
Meanwhile, Maguindanao Rep.Bai Sandra Sema said that war is not serving any of the causes of the parties involved.
“The Mindanao problem, particularly the MNLF problem is a political problem and cannot be resolved through armed conflict,” she said. “The only way to end this conflict is through communications and a sincere understanding of the issues by both sides.”