Quote for the Week..

"Why are the country’s political leaders quick to act on amending the Constitution to change nationalistic provisions for the benefit of foreigners or to extend their terms of office but are allergic to amending the Constitution to address the people’s aspirations for self-determination?" - Marvic Leonen,Dean of the UP College of Law, in a keynote address delivered at the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao; March 16-18, 2009 in Davao City, Philippines.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

MILF denies report on Kato death

COTABATO CITY—The military said it had received reports indicating that Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader Ombra Kato was killed in a skirmish with government troops in Maguindanao last week.

However, a ranking MILF official denied this.

Col. Marlou Salazar, commander of the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade, said intelligence reports said Kato, who carries a P10-million price on his head for staging attacks on villages in North Cotabato in August, died from gunshot wounds.

“We have information about it, we are verifying it,” Salazar said.

But Eid Kabalu, MILF civil-military affairs chief, laughed-off the reports.

“We have no report on that, as far as I know, he is alive and is somewhere in his area of responsibility,” he said.

It was the second time that Kato, head of the MILF 105th base command and one of three MILF field commanders described by the military as “rogue” for disobeying the MILF chain of command, had been reported dead.

Last month, a similar report also surfaced but Kato, in a video shot by the MILF, dispelled rumors of his death.

Salazar said the military was not saying it was certain that Kato had indeed been killed.

“That’s why we said we are still verifying it,” he said when asked late Friday afternoon if they had already ascertained the veracity of the reports.

Salazar claimed that while Kato might still be alive, his group’s capability to launch attacks against the military had been greatly reduced because of the ground and air assaults against MILF lairs in Maguindanao and nearby areas.

Kato’s group was linked to the recent raid on the town of Senator Ninoy Aquino in Sultan Kudarat.

At least six civilians, including a newborn baby, were killed in the attack that took place on Dec. 24, according to Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, spokesperson of the military’s 6th Infantry Division.

Ando identified five of the fatalities as Ibey Bugtong, 30; Dandan Bugtong, 6; Buling Ikog, 45; Aysa Buling, 45; Baylan Sabing, 22; and the 15-day-old infant. The victims were members of a Manobo community.

The MILF attacks prompted the military to launch air and ground offensives in the area.

Ando could not say if the rebels suffered casualties during the military offensive. He doubted the accuracy of local newspaper reports saying about 14 MILF were killed in that operation.

As this developed, government security forces captured an alleged bomb expert with links to the MILF during a raid in Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat on Dec. 24.

Supt. Joel Limson, Tacurong City police chief identified the suspect as Badrudin Ambao Balawag, 45.

“He is a suspect in previous attacks in the region (Central Mindanao). A fragmentation grenade was also recovered from his possession,” Limson said.

However, Kabalu denied that Balawag had ties with the MILF.

Kabalu accused the military of creating a scenario to block the resumption of peace talks that did not push through in August. (By Edwin Fernandez and Jeoffrey Maitem; INQ.net)

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