Renewed Fighting in Philippines Will Not Affect elections — Gov’t

Apr. 19, 2007

MANILA — Malacanang assured the public today that the ongoing conflict between government troops and a breakaway group of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Sulu would definitely not affect the forthcoming elections in the province.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said in his regular weekly press briefing in Malacanang the government is doing its best to ensure that the renewed fighting in Panamao town between the military and the group of MNLF commander Uztads Habier Malik will not affect other municipalities in Sulu.

He said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has already directed Defense Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane, Jr. to undertake necessary measures to avoid a possible spillover of the skirmishes to other municipalities.

“I hope it will not spill over pero maganda ang indication hindi nakikisali yung ibang MNLF commanders,” Ermita said.

He noted that since the start of the fighting, the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police have not received any information that other MNLF commanders would support the group of Malik.

Aside from that, Ermita said, former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor and MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari is reportedly distancing himself from Malik, a clear indication that some MNLF commanders are against the unprovoked attack of Maliks group on the military headquarters.

The government, through the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), is now attending to the needs of some 8,000 people affected by the skirmishes by sending relief goods to the area, Ermita added.

The NDCC, together with the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council of Sulu, is coordinating with the Task Force Comet which is now doing some rehabilitation works and giving relief assistance to the families residing in Barangay Bitanag.

Bitanag is the former camp of Malik, which is now occupied by a government Marine battalion. (OPS)

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