Zamboanga marks second year of siege with simple rites

Roel Pareño - Philstar.com

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The city held simple and peaceful rites to commemorate the anniversary of the violent siege that took place exactly two years ago.

Local officials and residents in Zamboanga City on Wednesday held a mass in a chapel in Sta. Catalina, one of the villages devastated during the Zamboanga siege on Sept. 9, 2013.  

At least a hundred have been killed during the standoff between government forces and a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who tried to build their own independent state in Zamboanga City. Nur Misuari, founder and chairman of the MNLF, reportedly led the siege.

Memories of the violent siege still haunt the survivors and heroes, said Jimmy Villaflores, village chief of Barangay Sta. Catalina.

A resident of Barangay Sta. Catalina, Michelle Ando remembered how she lost her two-year-old son from a ricocheting bullet while held hostage by the rebels.

“We were docking in a bunker when something hit my hand, which I thought was shrapnel. It then hit the forehead of my son,” said Ando, who could not hold back her tears in a radio interview together with Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar aired on DxRZ.

Salazar vowed to protect the people from insurgencies as the city continues to recover.

Former Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, one of the officials who personally visited the city to check on the situation, greeted the residents via Twitter.

“Hi, fellow veterans of the Zamboanga siege. Happy anniversary! Just wanted to take a moment & reflect & thank you,” said Roxas via Twitter.

The military and police forces joined by Salazar and other local officials later hoisted the Philippine flag at Sitio Sumariki and islet east of Kasanyangan village.

Col. Adrelino Colina, commander of the Task Group Zamboanga (TGZ), said the islet was the staging point used by the MNLF rebels in gaining entry into the city before staging the attack.

The islet, which is about 20 to 30-minute watercraft ride away from the city, was strategic since it is being used as entry point of smugglers and armed men.

“It was also their last defensive stance before our soldiers retake the place and hoisted the flag to declare war is over,” Colina said.

Colina said the security is not the sole responsibility of men in uniform but also of villagers who can help guard the city frontiers.

He said the soldiers were proud to revisit the place to hoist back the tri-color flag, which symbolizes that the city has recovered.

“The day when Zamboanga City siege started, there’s nothing to celebrate,” said Zamboanga Rep. Celso Lobregat. “Sept. 9, 2013 – this day and this episode is a painful, tragic and a dark side of Zamboanga City’s history.”

“It’s a day of infamy for Zamboanga City,” he said in a statement.

Lobregat further encouraged residents, both Muslim and Christian, to fervently pray that similar incident will never happen again. 











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