Kato not keen on rejoining MILF, spokesman says

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/26 Sept) – Breakaway rebel leader Ameril Umra Kato is no longer keen on returning to the fold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a rebel spokesman said Monday.

Von Al Haq, MILF spokesman, told MindaNews that Kato did not seek MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in the past two weeks, which was the timeline given to him to iron out his differences with the MILF.

“[Kato] was given from September 12 to 26 to reconsider his decision to return to the MILF. He did not sought the front’s leadership in that duration,” Al Haq said by phone.

The rebel spokesman said the Ulama Council recommended earlier that Kato be given the chance to thresh out his differences with the front’s Central Committee.

Early this year, Ebrahim confirmed in a press conference in Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao that Kato has broken his ties with the MILF.

But Ebrahim said they have been sending emissaries to Kato, erstwhile chief of the MILF’s 105th base command, for him to rejoin the group.

Kato eventually formed the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement, with its armed-wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, reportedly composed of some 300 men, due to his dismay in the slow-moving peace process with the government.

Two weeks ago, MILF’s www.luwaran.com reported that if Kato won’t rejoin the MILF, he would be declared outside of the coverage of the peace process and the ceasefire.

He was given until September 26 or today to rethink his position.

With the expiration of the deadline, Al Haq said the MILF Central Committee will be issuing a statement on the status of Kato based on the recommendation of the front’s Ulama Council.

Kato, who carries a P10-million bounty for his capture with his alleged 82 counts of criminal cases, could not be reached for comments Monday.

He was among the MILF commanders who waged a war in 2008 following the botched signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), which would have given the MILF wider political and economic powers.

Some 600,000 people were displaced by the war, the single largest internal displacement elsewhere in the world in 2008, the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre reported.

The Supreme Court eventually declared the MOA, which seeks to expand the Bangsamoro territory from the core Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, as unconstitutional.

Kato has become a key concern in the peace process between the MILF and the government under the Aquino administration.

In a press statement from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process last month, Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles said that government troops have been restrained from neutralizing the threat of Mr. Kato and his men as they are within the MILF territory in Camp Omar in Maguindanao province.

At the resumption of formal peace talks then in Kuala Lumpur, Deles stressed that the government views the Kato issue with serious concern as it has a tremendous impact on the negotiations.

Marvic Leonen, government chief peace negotiator, earlier said that since Kato is no longer an MILF member, the country’s legal mechanism should apply to him. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)

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