Aquino dismisses video of Zambo hostages under fire as 'unverified propaganda'
The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines -- President Benigno Aquino III downplayed a video circulating online that purportedly shows hostages of the Moro National Liberation Front in Zamboanga City waving white flags before they come under heavy fire, allegedly from government forces, saying it was “unverified” and likely spread as "propaganda.”
"I haven't seen the videos but from the point of view of the Department of Justice, that has not been verified," Aquino said at the annual forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines on Wednesday.
"This smacks a bit of propaganda," he added.
The video, which runs for 3:11 minutes, was posted on the Facebook page of Moro National Liberation Front founding chairman Nur Misuari. Misuari, however, does not maintain the page.
The video shows the hostages on a street waving white flags and shouting for a ceasefire before they come under fire but does not show who was shooting at them.
At buildings by the roadside are armed men who appear to be MNLF fighters who, at one point fire what seems to be a recoilless rifle in the direction of where the shots are coming from.
Aquino said the video tended to confirm that the rebels had used civilians as human shields during the close to month-long standoff with government forces in Zamboanga.
"It starts with the violation of international humanitarian law for using human shields. The bottom-line is, the action of the MNLF brought about the crisis in Mindanao," Aquino said.
He based intelligence reports indicate Misuari is likely still in the country.
Meanwhile, in Zamboanga City, also on Tuesday, policemen and soldiers were awarded for their role in the standoff.
Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca, spokesman of Police Regional Office 9, said the awardees, members of Task Force “Suyod” involved in mopping up operations from September 29 to October 20, received the Medalya ng Kagalingan (PNP Medal of Merit), Medalya ng Papuri (PNP Commendation Medal) and Medalya ng Kasanayan (PNP Efficiency Medal).
The Zamboanga standoff, which began on September 9, claimed the lives of more than 200 combatants and civilians and displaced more than 100,000 people, many of who still remain in evacuation centers.