Philippine Daily Inquirer, Saturday, 22 August 2009
By: Jocelyn Uy
THE MILITARY YESTERDAY SENT ABOUT A
hundred Marines to Matangule Island, Balabac to
keep the peace following the killing of 10 members
of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in a
clash with government soldiers there.
Lt.Col Edgard Arevalo, Navy spokesperson, said the roughly 1,500 residents that fled their homes have already returned to their communities following the clash between government soldiers and MNLF members on the island.
At least 30 MNLF members, led by Guru Abdullah Abdurajak, seized the island over the weekend and took several residents hostage to extort money, according to military officials.
Government soldiers launched an attack on the group when it failed to surrender by sundown Tuesday.
Soldiers from the 38th Marine Company yesterday established their presence to ensure the safety of the islet, Arevalo said in a text message yesterday.
"We feel elated by the people's display of gratitude even as we continue to be haunted by accusation as to how the operations were conducted in support of the local police," he said.
"But the Navy will remain steadfast in its commitment to be our people's partner in peace, progress and prosperity," he added.
Nur Misuari, chair of a faction of the MNLF, was outraged at the military assault, describing it as "Corregidor Island massacre".
Ten MNLF members fell in gunfights with government troops on Wednesday that lasted for about a day. Of the fatalities, three bodies got lost in the sea as the armed men shot it out with Navy Seals and Marines while trying to escape from the island in a pump boat.
The Armed Forces urged Misuari to help instead in the arrest warrants.
The military's Western Command said the gunmen looted homes and small establishements prior to fleeing.
Western Command Deputy Commander Bernard Ferrer said the military received complaints from returning residents about the looting.
Ferrer said police are preparing to file charges against the MNLF men.
"They...took advantage of the situation after the inhabitants fled," said Ferrer.
Authorities said they were still interviewing the residents to estimate the property damage caused by the assault on the islet by the group of MNLF leader Guru Abdullah Abdurajak.
Western Command Chief Hernani Perez visited Matangule island on Friday with various commanders of the region's armed services.
Perez ordered the continued deployment of Marines to help at least 20 policemen who were deployed to Matangule to train a group of Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) that authorities said will maintain peace and order on the island.