MANILA, Philippines – Even the conflict between government forces and members of the Moro National Liberation Front in Zamboanga City has gone online. But it seemed the other was pursuing the wrong target.
On Tuesday night, the official Twitter account of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (@TeamAFP) started the exchange by tagging an account purportedly set up by the MNLF (@mnlfnet) in one of its tweets, calling for their surrender.
“@mnlfnet we reiterate our call for (Habier) Malik’s group to surrender and take responsibility for their actions,” the AFP posted on its Twitter account at 9:23p.m.
“There is still honor in surrender especially if it will result in the safety of their hostages and the lives of his men,” it added.
Malik is a known follower of MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari, and is believed to be leading the attacks in Zamboanga city since Sept. 9.
In response, the MNLF account posted a few minutes later: “Ustaj Khabier Malik is now immortalized as “puddang sin kamaaldikaan”. He treasures martyrdom than anything else in this world.”
But the AFP shot back: “Surrender must be unconditional & every fighter in Malik’s group should be ready & willing to face consequences of their actions.”
The MNLF reacted: “When did MNLF run from a good battle? When did they surrender to the oppressors if not only for the calling of peaceful solution?”
The Twitter account of the AFP has about 17,000 followers, and had intensified in posting tweets since the start of the Zamboanga crisis. It had also been active in engaging users and defending the organization, especially when the news on frayed combat boots and soldiers begging food in Mindanao broke out.
“You know things are bad when the normally quiet AFP is tweeting its head off. Please pray for our troops in Zamboanga,” a certain @reinaregina on Twitter posted.
But another showed his support to the troops in his tweet: @TeamAFP To our fallen heroes, Zamboanga will never forget your ultimate sacrifice. We are forever indebted to you. MABUHAY PILIPINAS!,” tweeted @judegarcines.
“Don’t pay attention they are trying to destroy the image of the AFP. bat kaya ndi na lang sila ang sumabak sa giyera,” a @Dennybie tweeted.
The MNLF account, meanwhile, has about 300 followers. It had also been actively engaging with other Twitter users, especially journalists and news organizations.
Reached for comment, MNLF spokesperson Atty. Emmanuel Fontanilla denied that they have a Twitter account or any social media account.
“We only grant interviews, we don’t have Facebook or Twitter,” he told INQUIRER.net in a phone interview.