From InterAksyon (Oct 14): Cops still clueless on Malik
More than two weeks after the government declared the crisis in Zamboanga City over, the Philippine National Police admitted it remains clueless about the whereabouts and fate of Ustadz Habier Malik, who led Moro National Liberation Front fighters against government forces in an almost month-long standoff that cost more than 200 lives and displaced more than 100,000 people.
At the same time, they said there could still be MNLF stragglers hiding out in the mangrove swamps of Zamboanga.
“Actually, we’re still trying to sort out if he was among the recovered dead. We’ve a lot of reports of where he might be but there is no confirmation of these reports,” Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima said on Monday.
Neither has any trace of Malik, one of MNLF founder Nur Misuari’s most trusted lieutenants, shown up on DNA tests conducted on the bodies of slain rebels, he added.
At the height of the fighting, there were persistent reports about Malik having escaped to Sulu.
However, the military consistently denied this, insisting that the MNLF commander was trapped in the “constriction area” they had set up around areas where rebel holdouts remained.
Purisima also said while they have heard of reports that Misuari has fled abroad, they have not confirmed these.
Warrants of arrest have been issued against Misuari, Malik and two other MNLF commanders on charges of rebellion and violations of international humanitarian law.
“That’s the gossip that we’ve heard (about Misuari). Wala pa po tayong official na report patungkol po d’yan. Tuloy-tuloy ang paghahanap kay Nur Misuari, kay Malik at iba pa dahil meron na silang warrant of arrest na nakalabas laban sa kanila (We have no official report about that. The search is continuing for Nur Misuari, for Malik and others because warrants of arrest have been issued against them)” Purisima said.
He added that a reward against them might be announced in the near future.
On the other hand, Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca, spokesman of Police Regional Office 9, denied reports the Zamboanga City crisis management committee has gave permission to residents to go back to their homes, particularly to Barangay Sta. Barbara, scene of some of the worst fighting during the standoff.
“Itong nangyari ngayon is a case of disinformation. Ang akala ng mga (residents) ng Sta. Barbara ay puwede na silang bumalik. Pero, in fact, wala naman talagang instruction ‘yung CMC na puwede nang bumalik sila (What happened is a case of disinformation. The residents of Sta. Barbara thought they could return. But there has been no instruction from the CMC for them to return),” Huesca said.
Earlier, the police spokesman said clearing operations were continuing to remove unexploded ordnance and weed out rebel holdouts.
“There is a possibility na may mga iilan pa ring stragglers na naka-situate pa rin sa mga (that a few stragglers remain situated in the) mangrove areas,’ Huesca said.
Meanwhile, the five policemen killed during the standoff were declared heroes by the PNP in a wreath-laying ceremony Monday. They are Inspector Jay Oy-oyan and Police Officer 2 Murphy Abbilani of the Zamboanga City Police Office, and PO2s Christopher Hernaez, Lawin Salisa and Enrique Afable of the Special Action Force.
“The PNP is really proud of them,” Purisima said.