Leonen confirms rogue rebel leader Umbra Kato is alive PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 20 September 2012 14:23

Wanted ailing rogue rebel leader Ameril Umbra Kato is alive.

This was disclosed by Marvic Leonen, chair of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panel negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), told reporters Monday night that a wheelchair believed to be owned by Kato was recovered recently by Army soldiers in Camp Omar in Central Mindanao.

There were unconfirmed reports earlier that Kato, the rogue commander of the so-called Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), an armed group that split from the MILF, had died of illness.

The BIFF has opposed the ongoing peace negotiations between the government and the MILF to find a genuine and lasting solution to the decades-old Mindanao armed conflict.

The government has put up a cash reward of P10 million for the capture of Kato, who is blamed for leading several deadly attacks on civilians in Maguindanao.

Five of Kato’s top aides are also being sought by authorities for their role in the recent armed attacks in southern Philippines.

There had been reports that Kato was gravely sick but it was only Monday night that Leonen confirmed that Kato is ill.

Government forces found the wheelchair of Kato when they occupied Camp Omar after Kato’s forces abandoned the camp at the height of the fighting last month.

Kato apparently was able to flee, together with his men before the troops arrived.

The MILF has denounced the BIFF attacks.

In its website, the MILF said:

“There is virtually no way to justify the military offensive of the so-called Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). It is ill-timed during the Holy Month of Ramadan, which is a prohibited month for fighting (except when attacked). The rationale over the death of a boy in an ambush more than two months ago by combined Army and paramilitary forces, is narrow. It does not justify retaliation of that wide magnitude. It could have been avenged in the light of the Islamic prescription: ‘Eye for an eye, tooth for tooth but forgiveness is a better option.’

“A call first for the payment of a blood money will surely strengthen their case against the perpetrator or the government, if they do not act on it. But
emotion rather than wisdom is quicker in the draw and, hence, the current haywire in the central part of the province of Maguindanao.

“It is not MILF’s policy to speak ill of fellow Muslims, especially during Ramadan. But what is now taking place in Maguindanao, courtesy of the BIFF, will be more harmful, if we do not come out with a statement. A real organization, such as the MILF, will have to take a position. Silence, in the face of this serious development, is never a good policy. We, therefore, have to say, because we are not only challenged but also aggrieved.
“Even without saying, the offensive is directly aimed at shaming the MILF, which is currently holding with the Philippine government their 30th exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur. It is no secret that one of the reasons why the BIFF bolted away from the MILF was over their stiff opposition to MILF’s policy to talk peace with the ‘enemy.’
“To them, the only way to deal with the enemy is through the barrel of the gun. One who is most radical of them even branded the leaders of the MILF as ‘traitors’ to the Moro cause. We just let it fall on deaf ears; we never answer back. We know nothing good will get out of it if we engage them in senseless mudslinging.”