“It was one September morning seven years ago when the people of Zamboanga was awakened by rogue fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), under Habier Malik, as they stormed into Rio Hondo District in an attempt to raise their flag at the city hall on September 9,” the Philippine Army said on September 28.
The Army said that this is the same day the violence spread to three more barangays; Talon-Talon, Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina, where they took 200 people as hostages and used them as human shields. Most of them are civilians.
“As the clock ticks, more lives were lost mostly from the side of the rebels. The disturbing sound of gunfire and bombs around the city seemed to be normal, but our soldiers stood their ground to stop the rebels from advancing,” it noted.
The Philippine Army said “the troops were plodding with their combat boots, with rifles in tow, and at the same time, hoping that they will be able to win and survive. On the 14th day of the crisis, the Philippine Army used another weapon – a portable loudspeaker to deliver a dynamic message to the MNLF fighters: “Surrender is an honorable thing. We are Filipino brothers. We will respect your rights.”
“As the day went by, 208 rebels were killed while 294 were apprehended and captured. 195 hostages were rescued but 12 other civilians were killed and 79 injured. The conflict also resulted to the demise of 20 soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and five personnel from the Philippine National Police, leaving 194 others wounded,” it said.
“It was on September 23 when 1st Lt. Francis Damian was hit on the forehead during a close-quarter combat against the rebel forces. He was taken to the hospital but died later on, making him the third Army officer who was not able to witness the end of the conflict. 1st Lt. Damian was supposed to be on a 10-day academic break after his graduation from Basic Airborne Course; instead, he volunteered to be deployed in Zamboanga to fight alongside his men.”
“After 20 days of conflict, the crisis was declared over on September 28, but the Army stayed for a few more days to clear the area from unexploded ordnance.Our soldiers fought hard during the crisis and some of them paid the ultimate sacrifice; but we cannot deny that in this battle, the hardest hit were the civilians.”
“At least a hundred thousand civilians evacuated from their homes, and more than a hundred more died due to diarrhea and pneumonia-related illnesses. Years have passed since the bloodshed but the Philippine Army still honors and will forever remember the fortitude of our fallen heroes in Zamboanga.”
“Without their courage and sacrifice, the success of the operation would have been unattainable. As we remember the events that transpired seven years ago, let us also remember the cost our soldiers paid to keep the peace we cherish today,” the Philippine Army said.