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MILF: Kato, his group no longer covered by ceasefire mechanisms

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines -  Ameril Umbra Kato and his group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which seceded from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, are no longer covered by ceasefire mechanisms and other agreements between the MILF and the Government of the Philippines.

This was after Kato, former commander of the MILF's 105th Base Command, was officially expelled by the MILF on Monday.

“Ameril Umbra Kato and his companions and followers are no longer covered by all agreements between the MILF and the government,” MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar said in an interview with reporters.

“The decision of the Central Committee through a resolution is to expel Kato and his followers no longer members of the MILF effective Aug. 19 that was affirmed by the ulamas during their last meeting on Sept. 29. The ulamas recognized the MILF as the sole and legitimate representative of the Bangsamoro people presently under the leadership of Brother Murad. They also condemned the action taken by Kato and his followers,” said Jaafar.
 
Kato was among the three hardcore MILF commanders who conducted massive assaults in 2008 in Central Mindanao that resulted in the killing of at least 60 innocent civilians after the Supreme Court rejected as unconstitutional the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) between the Arroyo administration and the MILF. 

Last week, Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr. said that the military would not carry out actions against the BIFF until the MILF leadership officially declares Kato and his group already out of the peace process and that this should be subsequently affirmed by the negotiating panels.

Oban said that since Kato has a string of criminal charges filed in court the issue on him will be dealt with accordingly by the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Also at a press briefing last week, military public affairs chief Lt. Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. said that while waiting for a declaration from the MILF, the BIFF would still be considered covered by the Adhoc Joint Action Group and the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities.

Jaafar, however, said that while they have already issued their official position against the BIFF, they have yet to discuss what course of action they would make to deal with Moro renegades since the latter are still occupying Camp Omat, one of the biggest MILF camps in Maguindano.

“We will be discussing that since Camp Omar is one of the recognized camps of the MILF. The Central Committee will decide on that later,” he said.

Jaafar could not immediately give a categorical answer whether or not the MILF leadership would allow a military action against Kato and his followers. “We have no contact with the military and the government on this issue."

But while the MILF leadership does not recognize Kato’s group, Jaafar said that "we do not consider them enemy” because they are Bangsamoro people just like the Moro National Liberation Front.

Meanwhile, Burgos said they are still waiting for guidance from higher authorities on how to deal with the situation.



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