Mangudadatu denies coddling Kato’s group PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 24 August 2012 13:56

The assertion by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that ailing bandit gang leader Ameril Umra Kato had sneaked through government security cordon to seek medical care in Cebu City has again put on the line the efficiency of its intelligence networks.

It was only last November 2011 when the MILF’s vice chairman for political affairs, Ghadzali Jaafar, announced over Catholic station dxMS here that Kato, a Saudi-trained cleric, has died after a hypertensive stroke, only to be proven wrong when photos of the renegade rebel leader, holding an “on date copy” of a national newspaper, was distributed by his aides to different media outfits in Cotabato City.

An irate Jaafar even told dxMS, also in Cotabato City, in subsequent interviews, he would no longer speak about Kato’s demise, after having been refuted and ridiculed over the same radio station by Abu Misry Mama, spokesman of the Kato-led Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement.

Kato’s relatives in Datu Saudi, Maguindanao have confirmed he indeed had a stroke after a long trek from one mountain lair to another at Mount Firis, at the tri-boundary of Guindulungan, South Upi and Datu Saudi towns sometime late October 2011.

The MILF’s website, www.luwaran.net, said it learned of Kato’s evacuation from Maguindanao to a hospital somewhere in Cebu City from informants.
A recent photo of Kato, taken late last month, which his relatives supplied to reporters, showed him trying to walk with the help of three aides, so weak and frail, near a hut in the BIFM’s camp at a strategic hill overlooking Datu Saudi town.

Police and Army intelligence sources said it was unlikely for Kato, who carries a P10 million reward on his head for criminal offenses committed when he was still the chief of the MILF’s 105th Base Command, to reach Cebu City via an airport or a seaport somewhere in Mindanao without being detected.

“The most proximate, most recent report about him was that he was not in control of the BIFM even before they started attacking several towns in
Maguindanao in early August,” one of the sources, who asked not to be identified said.

Soldiers who took over three adjoining BIFM camps in the surroundings of Mount Firis, after three days of commando-type offensives, found a wheelchair, anti-hypertension drugs, and an electronic massaging device in an overhead bunker that housed Kato and several of his most trusted aides.

Religious and traditional leaders in the five towns the BIFM subjected to violent incursions from August 5 to August 12 have also raised doubts on insinuations of an unidentified MILF official, who was quoted in an August 11 published report as saying there were two “Maguindanao politicians” who are funding Kato’s group for political purposes.

The MILF source only identified Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu as one of the two politicians allegedly coddling Kato and his followers, an allegation the governor vehemently denied.

Mangudadatu, in an emailed statement, said he even wants the BIFM attacks two weeks ago on Army positions and farming villages in the province investigated by national security agencies to really get into the bottom of the carnage.

Mangudadatu said he is even ready to shell out a reward in exchange for any information that would lead to the whereabouts of the BIFM commanders that led the attacks for them to be locked in jail and prosecuted to the fullest extent of law.

“That’s something a supposed coddler of this group will never do,” Mangudadatu said in his statement circulated by France Milla, his chief information assistant.

Even officials of the Moro National Liberation Front, which signed a final peace pact with the national government on Sept. 2, 1996, have doubts on insinuations  that some disgruntled MNLF members aided Kato’s group in perpetrating their attacks that dislocated more than 25,000 people.

Key Army officials in Central Mindanao said they have no solid proof that can give credence to allegations that Mangudadatu and certain MNLF groups have connived with the BIFM.

In a statement, the MNLF’s largest and most influential faction, led by Cotabato City Vice-Mayor Muslimin Sema, said the allegations were “absurd” and baseless.

The MILF source quoted in the published report purporting Mangudadatu’s alleged links with the BIFM declined to be identified for lack of authority to speak on the issue.

Mama, speaking on behalf of the BIFM’s central leadership core, told station dxMS, which is Cotabato City’s oldest broadcast outfit, that they are operating independently and that they are not receiving any support from politicians or any organization.

The MNLF said its forces have religiously been adhering to their peace accord with the national government and have never turned their backs from it despite the controversies and misunderstandings on the implementation of some of its sensitive provisions. — Felix Ostrea