President Benigno Aquino III has sent three top-level government officials to Zamboanga City to help diffuse tension there following an early morning attack by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members.
At a briefing in Malacañang on Monday, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the three were Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, and Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista.
"[They] have been sent to Zamboanga City where they will further ensure that the President's directives are carried out and will update him accordingly," Lacierda said.
Aquino's order came after around 100 armed followers of former MNLF chief Nur Misuari entered Zamboanga City and took at least 20 people hostage.
Lacierda said Roxas, Gazmin, and Bautista are expected to assess the situation in Zamboanga and update Aquino regularly.
Fatwa vs. Roxas
Roxas was sent o Zamboanga City despite the fatwa issued against him by the Bangsamoro Supreme Council of Ulama in 2010.
Roxas, along with former president and now Manila mayor Joseph Estrada and Senate President Franklin Drilon, have been declared "enemies of Islam" in 2010 due to various alleged offenses.
Lacierda, however, said Roxas knows his responsibility.
"He's the head of DILG (and the) local government is affected. PNP [Philippine National Police] is also under his watch so he is going there as a responsible Cabinet secretary and mindful of the threats against him," he said.
Aside from sending the three officials, Aquino also met with the Cabinet security cluster on Monday afternoon and was briefed by the military and the police on the situation, Lacierda said.
"In the interest of public safety, we appeal to all Zamboanga City residents to stay alert for official announcements and updates, and to cooperate with the authorities," he said.
He also said Aquino has directed that "certain steps" be taken to ensure that the safety of the civilian population in general be protected.
Lacierda, however, did not elaborate on the ongoing government operations, saying only that they are in direct contact with the city government of Zamboanga.
Binay: PNoy on top of situation
Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay urged the MNLF to release the civilians it is keeping hostage in Zamboanga City.
In a series of posts on his Twitter account, Binay also reassured the public that Aquino is on top of the situation.
"I strongly condemn the armed assault on the peaceful communities in Zamboanga City. I urge the MNLF to immediately release the hostages," he said, adding that Aquino is "taking the needed steps to secure and protect the people in the affected areas." — KBK, GMA News