AFP ready to thwart Umbra Kato’s bid to disrupt peace talks

By Mario J. Mallari

08/31/2011

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) claims it is ready to thwart any possible attempt to disrupt peace by the group of renegade Moro Islamic Liberation Front commander Ameril Umbra Kato, who vowed to destroy peace negotiations between the government and the MILF.

But even as the military command speaks of fending off Umbra Kato’s forces in disrupting the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the armed rebel group’s central committee has started to discuss the Philippine government’s proposal for an expanded autonomy, so said Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman for political affairs, but added that the MILF leaders already had “light discussions” on the same government proposal in their headquarters in Maguindanao.

Reports said that the members of the central committee are to meet again, although earlier, a high ranking MILF leader already rejected the government’s proposal for autonomy, saying this was no different from the autonomy that was given the Moro National Liberation Front, saying that the constitutional amendments promised the MNLF were never delivered as promised.

He added that if the MILF accepts the autonomy proposal, the MILF would end up no differently from the MILF.

AFP-Public Affairs Office chief Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. said the military will continue to perform its mandate of protecting the people.

However, Burgos stressed that the AFP is fully supportive of the government’s peace efforts in resolving conflicts.

“The AFP will always support the government’s peace negotiation efforts and other peace initiatives in resolving conflict situations.

We will continue to pursue non-violent means as a primary effort

of attaining peace and stability,” said Burgos.

“Resorting to armed confrontation would always be the last recourse.

According to Burgos, military field commanders are given the authority to pursue their respective operation plans they see fit to the situation in their respective areas of jurisdiction.

“Our units in the field will continue to carry out security operations in their respective areas of jurisdiction. Our field commanders have their own operation plans and guidelines which they would follow to accomplish their tasks and mission in their respective localities,” said Burgos.

On Monday, Umbra Kato appeared before the media in Camp Omar with a small band of his fighters under the newly-formed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) and vowed to destroy the peace efforts of the government and the MILF.

Kato branded the peace negotiations as waste of time, money and effort.

Last December, Kato announced his separation from the MILF after differences with the leadership in handling the peace negotiations as he is pushing for an independent Moro state in Mindanao while the MILF leadership has settled for a Bangsamoro sub-state under the national government.

Early this month, Kato announced his formation of the BIFM, boasting 5,000 membership. However, during Sunday show of force in Camp Omar, Kato was only surrounded by roughly 200 supporters.

Meanwhile, MILF vice chairman Jaafar said the MILF Central Committee already discussed the government’s proposed agreement during Monday’s meeting in Camp Darapanan.

“We were briefed by the MILF peace panel, the GPH (government of the Philippine) proposal was submitted in writing and we just received it.

We had light discussion but the government cannot expect the central committee to decide on the issue, on the proposal in just one meeting so this will be followed by several meetings,’ said Jaafar.

But it appears that the MILF is taking a hard line, with an MILF panel member saying: “Why do we have to negotiate for something doable; the Aquino administration can just implement them.”

Mantawil described the GPH’s proposal as something that starts from scratch, while the MILF’s is a product of more than 10years of give-and-take negotiations.

As things stand, the desired MILF substate is an iimpossibility, as the Constitution does not allow this.

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