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PIA Press Release

10,000 protest vs Zamboanga City inclusion in MILF "jurisdiction"

Business establishments close shop as sign of protest

By JP Alvarez

Zamboanga City (4 August) -- Close to 10,000 people gathered together as one in a protest rally in front of city hall, downtown Zamboanga early morning today.

Protesters bearing placards "Yes to Peace! NO to inclusion of Zamboanga City to Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE)" and "MILF go back to Ma;acañang", were emotional in sending their grievance over the national government of violating their right to information.

"Nuway cila consulta cun el publico o maskin informa man lang kay incluhi cun el Zamboanga City na BJE, y despues manyana ay pirma ya sila el agreement!?" (The public was not consulted or informed of the inclusion of Zamboanga City to the BJE and tomorrow they are going to sign the agreement already?") Grasp one of the protesters.

People from all walks of life to include civic & religious group, religious leaders, business group, students, teachers, GOs, NGAs, city and barangay officials, senior citizens, and practically community members of all the 98 barangays of Zamboanga City showed up early this morning wearing red t-shirts and red arm bands, with their placards as a sign of their protest to the inclusion of Zamboanga City to BJE.

Zamboanga City Chamber of Commerce and Industry representative in a short message said its members are 100% not in favor of the inclusion to BJE.

Zamboanga Sibugay Governor George Hofer who was also present in the rally as a sign of support to Zamboanga and its people said "Wherever Zamboanga City will go, Sibugay will go"

All councilors of Isabela City, Basilan Province to include barangay chairmen of the 45 barangays of Isabela City were also present during the rally and were one in saying NO to the inclusion of Zamboanga and Isabela City to BJE.

"Tama na Sobra na, kailanga na nating lumaban" a tearful Taeb Alejo, councilor, Isabela City said in a short statement during the rally.

Zamboanga City Archbishop Romulo Vallez was also present in the rally.

All commercial establishments in the city close shop 11am to 1pm to show that they are one in saying NO to the inclusion of Zamboanga City to BJE while their employees crowd the streets bearing placards of protest. Ateneo de Zamboanga University held a prayer rally inside the campus.

City Mayor Celso Lobregat said, "In Zamboanga, we have always lived in peace. We are all for peace. We do not want to be part of BJE!"

He publicly lamented Sec. Dureza saying "I received a call from Sec. Dureza saying Zones 3 & 4 are not anymore included in the BJE, dahil nagkamali lang sila, what kind of reason is that?" "This is not anymore a question or an issue of what barangays are included, it's now a question of why the public were not consulted and why were we not given an official copy of the agreement?" he added.

1st District Congresswoman Beng Climaco said she was shocked when she saw a copy of the supposed agreement that Zamboanga City's Zone 3 and 4 along with 6 other barangays were included in the BJE.

"Sec. Dureza assured me before that Zamboanga City is not included in the BJE only to find out that he was lying" Cong. Climaco said "people of Zamboanga were deprived of the truth, a clear violation of the Zamboangueños right to information."

She pointed out that the GRP Peace panel headed by Gen Rodolfo Garcia even denied them an official copy of the document/agreement.

Barangays Zone 3 & 4 are areas where the City Hall is located, The Ateneo de Zamboanga University, the commercial complex, (malls, shopping centers), the Immaculate Cathedral and the historical Fort Pilar shrine.

Meanwhile, 2nd District Congressman Erbie Fabian is in Manila having talks with the city's lawyers to file a temporary restraining order (TRO) at the Supreme Court against the MOA.

RP and MILF are set to sign the MOA tomorrow in Malaysia. Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo and his Malaysian counterpart are expected to witness the signing in Kuala Lumpur of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on ancestral domain between the Philippine and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Peace Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said, unless the Supreme Court issued a TRO, it's all systems go for the signing of the agreement on Aug. 5.

He added, after the signing, the government would launch an "all-out consultation" preparatory to the holding of a plebiscite in one year.

The MOA grants an expanded Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) its own basic law, an internal security force, a system of banking and finance, civil service, education and legislative institutions, full authority to develop and dispose of mineral and natural resources.

The government of the proposed MILF-controlled area would also have the power to send trade missions overseas and to enter into international arrangements as stated in the draft agreement.

One protester said "if the draft agreement is ideal and for the good of the Bangsamoro people, then so be it. But why hide the details of the agreement from the Zamboangueños who are first and foremost the affected front liners? Why keep the people in the dark? Why the absence of a public consultation? Where is the government's policy on transparency? (PIA ZC) [top]

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