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MNLF denies intent to raise flag at Zambo city hall

A Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) spokesman has denied reports that their goal is to hoist their flag at Zamboanga City hall Monday morning, which the military claimed has resulted in a standoff leaving six people dead so far.

"Wala pong itatanim na flag. We are just carrying our flag because we identify ourselves as MNLF," said Atty. Emmanuel Fontanilla in an interview on GMA News TV's "Quick Response Team" on Monday afternoon.

Fontanilla was reacting to the military's claims that armed MNLF members were sent to Zamboanga City to plant a flag at the city hall following the group's declaration of independence last August.

The MNLF members took hostage at least 300 civilians, some of whom were used as human shields, the military also said.

 The MNLF claimed it was the military who initiated the skirmish.

Fontanilla said they carried their flags near the city halls of Davao and General Santos cities before without any issues.

"Dati naman, may mga armadong movement ang MNLF noong 1996. Around 3,000 armed MNLF went around Mindanao. Wala namang nagreklamo," he said.

Fontanilla also said it was the main MNLF group that figured in the standoff and not a break-away faction as claimed by the military.

The MNLF spokesman also accused the government of forgetting the peace agreement it entered with the group in 1996 as allegedly shown by the tactical operations against them.

The MNLF earlier expressed dismay over the recently signed Bangsamoro Framework Agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which it believes would abrogate the 1996 peace pact. The new framework agreement provides for the creation of a Bangsamoro Political Entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

"Maybe the government has decided to set aside the peace agreement, kaya siguro nagkaroon ng ganitong pangyayari," Fontanilla said.

He added that the government should have filed a complaint with the Indonesian Embassy, which handles the 1996 peace agreement, instead of resorting to "unilateral" actions against them.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Malacañang has not forgotten about the peace agreement.

"Wala pong katotohanan na we've already terminated it," he said, adding that Fontanilla had even met with a representative from Indonesia about the peace agreement.  — Marc Jayson Cayabyab/KBK, GMA News