'Positive results' in nego with rebels

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Interior Secretary Mar Roxas on Friday, September 13, told Rappler that the "credible feelers" government received last night from Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels have "evolved into some positive results this morning."

In a text message to Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa shortly past 7 am, Roxas said:  "There were some credible feelers last night.  We were working on it and [they] evolved into some positive results early this morning."

In an 8 am radio interview with Inquirer Radio, Roxas said there were negotiations with the rebels last night but he denied a Rappler report that between 70-80 already surrendered. 

"May pag-uusap magdamagan para sa pagsuko sana pero walang nangyaring pagsuko kagabi. Hanggang ngayon na naguusap tayo wala (There were negotiations throughout the night on surrendering but there was no surrender that happened last night. Until now that we're talking, there hasn't been any)," Roxas told Inquirer Radio on its 8 am morning show, as quoted on the radio station's Twitter account.

"Ongoing ang talks para mapababa ang arms nila, maparelease and mga hostages (Talks are ongoing for them to drop their arms and release the hostages)."

Rappler stands by its story.

Police and sources from Barangay Sta Barbara told Rappler Thursday night, September 12, that between 70-80 followers of Nur Misuari surrendered to members of the Philippine National Police, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) and the Philippine Center for Transnational Crime (PCTC) who were in Sta Barbara. The PAOCC and the PCTC are under the office of Executive Secretary Paquito "Jojo" Ochoa. 

"A certain member of MNLF under commander Ismael with white flag reached our position and negotiated their surrender. About 80 of them are armed and one is wounded," the sources told us at around 8:30 pm Thursday.

The MNLF member who served as the coordinator identified himself as Paulo Casa. We were able to talk to him on the phone.

Casa said that around 6:30 pm he approached the government troops positioned across the street from the mosque they were occupying in barangay Sta Barbara.

He negotiated a ceasefire. He said he was unarmed when he approached them.

Casa said they were holding 38 hostages. He told Rappler on the phone that they're doing fine. The hostages earlier waved the white flag to catch the attention of the government troops.

What they told the PNP-PAOCC-PCTC teams was for the media to cover their surrender so it is made immediately public. A reporter tapped by the police and the MNLF rebels was asked to go to Barbara Thursday night, but he was instead called to a meeting in the city with senior government and city officials. 

By 11 pm, the government had yet to decide to send representatives to the area. By midnight, they decided to send the reporter home.

In his radio interview Friday, Roxas clarified this was a situation limited to only 5 barangays, "a very, very small portion of Zamboanga."

Roxas said the MNLF has already been surrounded in and around that area.

The developments come on its 5th day of the standoff.

Conflicting reports

But Roxas did confirm the release of Fr Michael Ufana, a Catholic priest held hostage by armed followers of Nur Misuari "kaninang madaling araw (at dawn)," reportedly carrying with him two dead MNLF fighters.

Senior Supt Chiquito Malayo of Zamboanga City regional PNP, however, said the release happened at 7am. Rappler also reported Ufana was released last night.

Roxas said he had not yet to talked to Ufana and said he will check with him if there were conditions set with his release. - Rappler.com