Kato given 2 weeks to return to MILF

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/15 September) – Former Moro Islamic Liberation Front base commander Ameril Umra Kato has two weeks to reconsider his decision to form another armed group and return to the MILF if he wishes to remain under the coverage of the peace process and the ceasefire, a news item posted on the MILF website luwaran.com today said.

MILF military spokesperson Von Al Haq said the ultimatum was based on a recommendation from the Ulama Council which met last September 10.

Al Haq said that during this two-week period, which ends on September 26, Kato should meet MILF Chairman Al-haj Murad Ebrahim and settle whatever “kinks” he may have [with the MILF].

Once the two-week deadline ends and Kato decides not to return to the MILF, he will be on his own in facing the criminal charges filed against him by government, the MILF spokesperson said.

Kato, who has 82 criminal cases, carries a P10-million bounty on his head.

The Philippine government had pressed the MILF to make a clear stand on Kato’s decision to leave the rebel group, saying the armed group he has formed, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, was a threat to the peace talks.

Kato left the MILF over his disillusionment with the peace process, after the Supreme Court ruled that the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain was unconstitutional.

The MOA-AD was scheduled for signing in August 2008 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. But Philippine officials opposed to the agreement filed a petition before the High Tribunal questioning its constitutionality.

Meanwhile, Khaled Musa, deputy chairman of the MILF Committee on Information, warned that “more and more Katos would surface if the government continues to be insincere in the peace negotiation.”

The MILF has submitted a Comprehensive Compact containing the proposal to create a Bangsamoro sub-state as the way of resolving the decades-old Mindanao problem.

Government on the other hand submitted a counter-proposal, a “three-in-one” framework for negotiations that includes a development package, reforming the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and correcting the narratives of the Moro history.

But MILF chair Al-haj Murad Ebrahim said they need not negotiate with government if the latter will only insist on the “doables” because they can do anything and no one can bar them from doing it.” He called the two proposals “heaven and earth”.

Peace negotiations between government and the MILF started in 1997. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno / MindaNews)

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