THE clearing operations in areas of Zamboanga City formerly held by rebels from the Nur Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front rebels have been hampered due to heavy rains.
Chief Insp. Ariel Huesca, Western Mindanao Police Regional Office spokesman, said the clearing operations have stopped since Friday.
The heavy rains were due to the inter-tropical convergence zone in the areas of Palawan, Visayas, and the whole of Mindanao.
Huesca said ground troops have cordoned off the area as remnants of Misuari’s forces might escape.
“Hindi kasi natin masasabi na wala nang MNLF sa former conflict areas. Nakabantay ang mga tropa sa outer area ng conflict zone,” he added.
Military forces continue to provide support to the PNP in clearing Zamboanga City of remaining MNLF stragglers, bodies, unexploded ordnance and weapons since Sept. 29.
AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan said Task Force Zamboanga continues to play the support role in so far as the clearing operations is concerned. Higher authorities have given PNP and AFP forces 10 to 14 days to complete the operations.
Five Army soldiers accused of looting the residence of Zamboanga City councilor Benjamin “BJ” Guingona during the clearing campaign have been brought to Philippine Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio.
“The investigation is now with the Army. They (Army officials) are conducting the investigation and they are going to proceed with the court martial if there is enough evidence against them (erring soldiers),” AFP chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said.
Bautista ordered the detention of the five soldiers last Sept. 20 at the headquarters of the AFP Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City shortly after their fellow soldiers reported their misbehavior.
Army spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang said the five, including an officer, are detained at the Army Custodial Center.
He said the Army Provost Marshal is conducting the formal investigation. “It (Army Provost Marshal) will recommend if the case will be elevated to court martial,” he said.
Cabangbang said the case that the five are facing before the Army is not prejudicial to the filing of criminal charges. “To us in the Army, the most we can give them is discharge (from the service),” he said.