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We’re neutral, says MNLF Surigao

By Eugenio Lira, Jr.

Surigao City— A brigade commander of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who is based in Camp Arayat-Rizal, Matin-ao, Mainit, Surigao del Norte, on Tuesday has declared neutrality vis-à-vis the ongoing war between the government and the muslim separatist group.

Major General Norberto Dela Peña, Jr., commander of MNLF Northern Mindanao, told Surigao Today that MNLF forces under his command are neutral as far as the on-going war between the government and MNLF in Zamboanga City is concerned. He is directly under the leadership of MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari but has chosen to be neutral.

“There’s no reason for Surigaonons to fear or cast any doubt on my group because we’re neutral and we will never make any adverse moves against the Philippine government and local authorities,” said Dela Peña, commander of 2,000-strong MNLF forces, who was recruited in 2000 under the MNLF Young Officers Union which spearheaded livelihood activities for its members.

He said Camp Arayat-Rizal, with more than 600 MNLF members, was established in 2001 and his members who are mostly farmers are peace-loving citizens engaged in livelihood activities.

“We’re non-combatants and more focused in our spiritual well-being. We’ve been cooperative to the local government and the authorities ever since the establishment of our MNLF camp in 2001. We’re not armed,” said the 36-year old MNLF commander.

Superintendent Joseph Nohara, Surigao City police chief, said he has ordered the close monitoring of the movement of MNLF members in the city.

“We’re stepping up our intelligence monitoring and have provided sufficient security measures on vital government installations and private institutions by posting uniformed personnel. We have set up checkpoints and chokepoints within the city and have also provided police escorts to safeguard the lives of key government officials within our area of responsibility,” Nohara stressed.

Surigao Chamber of Commerce and Industries (SCCI) President Willie Gan said the business sector has trust and confidence on local authorities as far as security within Surigao City is concerned.

“But we’re not taking chances. We’re also making our own monitoring and have employed preventive measures to protect our businesses,” Gan concluded. 


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