Hostaged? Zambo top cop doesn’t look like it

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – It sounded like a foolish thing to do. Flanked only by 3 other cops, Zamboanga City OIC police chief Senior Supt Jose Chiquito Malayo approached a group of 23 Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members and asked them to surrender.

Around lunchtime Tuesday, September 17 – Day 9 of the Zamboanga City crisis – news exploded that the city's top cop was taken hostage. It hugely dampened a day that was otherwise going great because of the releases of over a hundred hostages. 

"While we rejoice at the rescue of the total 149 hostages, we are deeply saddened by the report that city police director OIC Col Jose Chiquito Malayo is in the custory of the MNLF," said Mayor Maria Isabelle "Beng" Climaco Salazar during the afternoon briefing of the Crisis Management Committee.

But a mistah of "Chiqui," 46, from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Batch 1989 did not doubt for a moment he was going to be okay.

"When I found out about his abduction, I knew he'd come out of it alive," the mistah told Rappler.

And he was right. Malayo saved the day when he emerged early evening looking nothing like a hostage. He also brought along with him the 23 MNLF members who had surrendered to the police. 

Based on the narration of Interior Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II, these MNLF members may not be involved in the standoff with government troops. 

They joined other groups of MNLF members who sailed to Zamboanga City supposedly believing that they were joining a peaceful rally. When the violence started, they supposedly retreated to the marshlands of Barangay Mampang. This is where Malayo bumped into them on Tuesday.

"We will know in the intel debrief," Roxas said.

SURRENDEREES: Members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) from Basilan. Photo by LeAnne Jazul

SURRENDEREES: Members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) from Basilan.

Photo by LeAnne Jazul

Hostage or negotiator?

Call it what you want, Chiqui said, refusing to confirm or deny if he was taken as a hostage.

"You may use your term if I was hostaged or not," a smiling Chiqui told reporters.

"We were looking for the reported armed group. We bumped into them. We did not exchange gun fires, and we started talking," Malayo said.

The group of MNLF members that supposedly hostaged Malayo came from Basilan. This piece of information was a source of comfort for him, because this group is supposedly not known to be involved in terrorist acts. 

It's an incredible feat – in fact, too incredible for some it fueled ugly speculations of a staged war swirling around the city for a while.

On the same night, Radio Mindanao Network commenters lengthily discussed conspiracy theories and repeatedly suggested that the crisis is a "Game of the Generals."

Humble beginnings

Malayo is new in Zamboanga City. He assumed shortly after Mayor Climaco took her post as first term chief executive of the City in June 2013. 

"He's strict, but people noted decline in shooting incidents here since he assumed," said a local official.

Another mistah vouched for Malayo as a simple and honest man. 

He grew up in a poor family in Negros Island in the Visayas. He is the eldest son. 

When he was at the PMA, his mistahs would tease him about a waiter who shares his surname. 

It turned out it was the brother he convinced to apply as a waiter and was later accepted.

His brother also eventually got himself enlisted in the Philippine Navy. – Rappler.com