PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK
(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports below)

SENATE BEGINS BBL HEARING WITH QUESTIONS ON IQBAL IDENTITY


APRIL 13.....In this February 2015 photo, Sen. Bongbong Marcos meets with MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal. The lawmakers appealed to the MILF to consider his suggestions as to how the government and the MILF can restore the public's confidence in the peace process after the Mamasapano incident.
- The Senate proceedings on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) started on Monday with Sen. Ferdinand Bong-Bong Marcos Jr. and other senators questioning Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal’s use of alias. Marcos directly asked Iqbal why the MILF feels the need to present a negotiator who is unable to use his real name, to which Iqbal replied by saying that a revolutionary struggle is a very difficult and dangerous enterprise that would require security of persons involved. “If you're not able to really succeed in concealing our real identity, not to deceive people, but mainly to protect my person, to protect my family, to protect the struggle, and then perhaps I wouldn’t have been around today and that is precisely why we use nom de guerre. As I said, if I was harmed, I was killed, perhaps I would not appear in the head of MILF negotiating panel,” Iqbal said. Iqbal provided a brief history and cited others who use noms de guerre to explain the use of his alias and disclosed that he has been using it as early as February 1979. He said that his statement is founded on the idea that the engagement between the government and the MILF is a political one. READ MORE...

ALSO: Iqbal pleads to Senate to not reveal his true name


Mohagher Iqbal in a huddle with Senator Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos during the Senate Mamasapano hearing. File photograph by Jamin Verde. PHOTO COURTESY OF INTERAKSYON.COM 
MORO Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal on Monday pleaded with senators to not compel him to reveal his true identity citing security risks to him and his family.
Attending the resumption of the Senate hearing on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Iqbal explained the situation behind his using an alias was “complicated.”  Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., chair of the Senate committee on local government, insisted that Iqbal reveal his true name to no avail. Iqbal explains  “What is your true name, Mr. Iqbal?” Marcos asked Iqbal. “We use nom de guerre to protect myself, my family, and the struggle. If I was harmed and killed, perhaps I would not be here in this august body,” Iqbal said. Marcos retorted, “It does not inspire confidence in anyone, when you’re sitting across the table and you’re not sure of the identity of the person you’re talking to.”  Iqbal said he would reveal his true identity once the BBL, which seeks to create the Bangsamoro political entity, was signed into law. READ MORE...

ALSO: Cayetano says Iqbal really Datucan Abas; 100% sure of it


CAYETANO
SENATE Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said Thursday he is 100 percent sure that Datucan Abas is the real name of Mohagher Iqbal, the chief negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), based on his criminal records and his school records from the Manuel L. Quezon University in Manila from which he graduated.
Cayetano said Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta was the lawyer of Iqbal and the other leaders of the MILF—Al Hadz Ibrahim Salamat, Aleeem Aziz Mimbantas, Ghadzli Jaafar and Eid Kabalu--when they were charged with multiple murder over the Davao bombings in 2003. Twenty people died and 143 were injured in the Davao International Airport bombing March 4, 2003. Seventeen were killed and 56 were wounded in the bombing at the Davao City Sasa wharf on April 2, 2003. Cayetano said he was baffled why government peace chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer told the Senate hearing on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) last April 13 she does not know any case filed against Iqbal, whether under his alias or his real name. READ MORE...

ALSO: Following Kato's death, Esmael Abubakar alias Kumander Bungos is new BIFF head


Esmael Abubakar is new BIFF chief Esmael Abubakar is new BIFF chief. Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters vice chairman for political affairs Sheik Esmael Abubakar alias Kumander Bungos (right) sits beside BIFF founder and chairman Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato in this photo taken in April 2011 in Maguindanao. Abubakar took over the helm of the BIFF on Tuesday, April 14, after Kato reportedly died of a stroke. Mark Navales/File 
Following the death of its founder and leader Ameril Umbra Kato on Tuesday, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters named Sheik Esmail/Ismael Abubakar alias Kumander Bungos as head of the rebel group.
BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama told GMA News Online in a phone interview that the group decided to have the 40-year-old Abubakar take over Kato's post. Prior to his appointment, Abubakar was the former chief of the political affairs of the BIFF. He is also active in the military offensive. Abubakar also served as the brigade commander of the 105th Base Command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The BIFF is a splinter group of the MILF. Abubakar studied in the Middle East, is an expert at Shariah law, and took on the title of sheik. READ MORE...

ALSO: BIFF will not die with Ameril Umbra Kato


Ameril Umbra Kato, seated, the commander of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the breakaway faction of Moro Islamic Liberation Front, is interviewed by the media inside his rebel stronghold in Maguindanao in this file photo. AP Ameril Umbra Kato, the founding chair of the breakaway rebel group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), is dead.
Abu Misri Mama, speaking for BIFF, in a phone interview confirmed that the group’s founding chair “has returned to his creator.” He added that BIFF followers have accepted Kato’s fate but vowed that “BIFF will not die with him.”  
Mama said he had talked with the BIFF leader’s son who confirmed the death in a phone conversation. Mama said he decided not to go to where Kato was buried as it was too far and because Kato was already buried Tuesday morning.  “I’ve talked to his son who confirmed the death of his father. He was buried this (Tuesday) morning,” he said.  Earlier, Mayor Samsodin Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao, quoting Kato’s relatives and close allies, said the BIFF founding chair suffered a cardiac arrest at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday in his hideout in a remote village of Guindulungan, Maguindanao. READ MORE...

ALSO: AFP says death of Umbra Kato to further weaken BIFF


The late Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) founder Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato is seen in this file photo taken in 2011 somewhere in Maguindanao. AFP public affairs chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc on Tuesday, April 14, said the military is '99.9 percent sure' Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato is dead, since they have received similar information from a commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Kato is reported to have succumb from a stroke. Mark Navales/File
The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Tuesday said the reported death of Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato, founder of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, may weaken further the outlawed group. At a press briefing, AFP public affairs chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc described Kato as a charismatic leader who had influenced many young fighters to join his group. "More or less 150 na lang sila [sa BIFF], kung wala nang nag-i-inspire, kung wala nang charismatic sa kanilang grupo, dahan-dahang wala nang sasali [sa BIFF]," he said. "Lalo nang hihina ang kanilang hanay, dahan-dahan nang mawawala ang influence ng BIFF as a group."   Cabunoc earlier said they were 99.9 percent sure that Kato is dead. "99.9 percent dahil ang MILF mismo ang nagsabi, maging ang pamangkin ni Umbra Kato na MILF rin, kinumpirma," he said. He added that based on initial information, Kato died around 2 a.m. Tuesday in Barangay Kateman in Guindulungan town in Maguindanao due to cardiac arrest. READ MORE...

ALSO STANDARD VIEWPOINT: No final peace in Mindanao [The President and his peace negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferrer and peace adviser Teresita Deles seem to have been given love potions by the MILF leaders. Government peace negotiators and advisers are now taking the side of the MILF and even speaking on their behalf.]


By Emil Jurado ---President Aquino is convinced that the Bangsamoro Basic Law is the way to peace and development and Mindanao.
Equally convinced are his friends and allies in the Peace Council, which the President himself formed. Yes, the people of Mindanao have long been suffering from strife and internecine war. But does the BBL really guarantee peace and development ? Should not the ratification of the BBL be nationwide because the P75 billion initial funding for the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity will come from all Filipinos who pay their taxes? Those who know Muslim history and culture will tell you that peace cannot be guaranteed. Foremost, the Aquino administration is talking to only one segment of the Moro rebels – the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. But the MILF is divided into three factions. READ MORE...

ALSO STANDARD EDITORIAL: Lies upon lies


THE revelation that top officials of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front used pseudonyms when they signed various peace agreements with the government is just the latest example of how the Aquino administration has been piling lie upon lie to build an unstable foundation for peace in Mindanao. Administration officials have been tripping over themselves to explain that they knew this all along, and that there was nothing wrong with revolutionaries using their noms de guerre to sign legally binding documents, but it seems like some officials did not get the memo. The presidential adviser on the peace process, Teresita Deles, for example, said she did not know that Mohagher Iqbal, the name used by the MILF chief negotiator, was a pseudonym until he admitted this last week. This leaves two possibilities: the government’s top peace official was left our of the loop or she was lying. Neither possibility is particularly attractive or reassuring, but given this administration’s aversion for the truth and transparency, the latter seems more likely. After all, President Benigno Aquino III has led by example, piling lie upon lie on the covert law enforcement operation that he authorized, and that led to the deaths of 44 police commandos at the hands of Muslim rebels, including those from the MILF, which defended the massacre as an act of self defense. In the aftermath of the debacle, Mr. Aquino tried to play down the fact that he had entrusted the operation to his good friend, then suspended police chief Alan Purisima, who kept the mission so secret that the military was unprepared to provide timely support to the beleaguered police commandos. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Senate begins BBL hearing with questions on Iqbal’s identity


In this February 2015 photo, Sen. Bongbong Marcos meets with MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal. The lawmakers appealed to the MILF to consider his suggestions as to how the government and the MILF can restore the public's confidence in the peace process after the Mamasapano incident.

MANILA, APRIL 20, 2015 (PHILSTAR) By Rosette Adel - The Senate proceedings on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) started on Monday with Sen. Ferdinand Bong-Bong Marcos Jr. and other senators questioning Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal’s use of alias.

Marcos directly asked Iqbal why the MILF feels the need to present a negotiator who is unable to use his real name, to which Iqbal replied by saying that a revolutionary struggle is a very difficult and dangerous enterprise that would require security of persons involved.

“If you're not able to really succeed in concealing our real identity, not to deceive people, but mainly to protect my person, to protect my family, to protect the struggle, and then perhaps I wouldn’t have been around today and that is precisely why we use nom de guerre. As I said, if I was harmed, I was killed, perhaps I would not appear in the head of MILF negotiating panel,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal provided a brief history and cited others who use noms de guerre to explain the use of his alias and disclosed that he has been using it as early as February 1979. He said that his statement is founded on the idea that the engagement between the government and the MILF is a political one.

READ MORE...
The MILF chief negotiator said that former presidents Ramos, Estrada, and Arroyo, even President Aquino never questioned his alias as it is normal to use a nom de guerre in any revolutionary organization.

He added that it is part of confidence-building that the government of Philippines treats MILF as it is. However, Marcos was not satisfied with Iqbal’s answer saying the use of which is contrary to confidence-building and continued to directly ask his true name as he is not confident with Iqbal’s citizenship, which is necessary considering that he will become the chair of the Bangsamoro transition commission and the head of the government of the Bangsamoro upon the passage of plebiscites.

“Government has known everything about me. Engaging the government for 42 years, nothing can be hidden from the government,” answered Iqbal, seeking to provide context.

Iqbal said he will disclose his real name once the BBL is passed and rectified by the people and things begin to "normalize".

Since Marcos is still not satisfied with Iqbal’s answers, he asked Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Teresita Deles about Iqbal's name. She said it is known by government and added that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has evidence of Iqbal's name in issuing his passport.

Deles argued that Iqbal has stood by everything he has signed since 1997. Iqbal has been signing all the papers and he has never disappeared and was never seen to commit any act that made them question about his alias. She added that there are enemies of MILF who would love to see problems with the peace process.

Marcos replied that he is not accusing Iqbal of anything; they just want to know his name. He asked Deles if she knows the real name of Iqbal and she said that she knows the name but when asked regarding her personal knowledge she said she hasn’t seen the documents but the suggested that the government has it.

Sen. Nancy Binay also asked government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer regarding Iqbal’s real name. Ferrer said she learned about it when she was doing her research on the armed conflicts in the Philippines way back in the 1990s.

Gen. Gregorio Catapang was also questioned by Sen. Francis Escudero and he answered that to his knowledge, the Armed Forces of the Philippines does not know his real name. They treated his name as a real name, he said.

Escudero also asked if Iqbal knows any other individual named "Mohagher Iqbal” and he said that it is possible that there are other people named as such but claimed that he is not aware if there are any.

Escudero fired several questions involving Iqbal’s bank account and cases filed under his name. Iqbal told him that he has a bank account named after his nom de guerre which Escudero contested to be against anti-money laundering law. Ferrer also replied that they are not aware of any cases under his nom de guerre and real name.

When asked if peace talks will be affected once the Senate issues a subpoena to DFA so they could disclose Iqbal’s real name, Iqbal said he could not comment. Escudero then invited DFA to bring documents that could enlighten the Senate on Iqbal’s real name for the next Senate BBL hearing.


INQUIRER

Iqbal pleads to Senate to not reveal his true name Marc Jayson Cayabyab @MJcayabyabINQ INQUIRER.net 12:20 PM | Monday, April 13th, 2015


Mohagher Iqbal in a huddle with Senator Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos during the Senate Mamasapano hearing. File photograph by Jamin Verde. PHOTO COURTESY OF INTERAKSYON.COM

MORO Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal on Monday pleaded with senators to not compel him to reveal his true identity citing security risks to him and his family.

Attending the resumption of the Senate hearing on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Iqbal explained the situation behind his using an alias was “complicated.”

Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., chair of the Senate committee on local government, insisted that Iqbal reveal his true name to no avail.

Iqbal explains

“What is your true name, Mr. Iqbal?” Marcos asked Iqbal.

“We use nom de guerre to protect myself, my family, and the struggle. If I was harmed and killed, perhaps I would not be here in this august body,” Iqbal said.

Marcos retorted, “It does not inspire confidence in anyone, when you’re sitting across the table and you’re not sure of the identity of the person you’re talking to.”

Iqbal said he would reveal his true identity once the BBL, which seeks to create the Bangsamoro political entity, was signed into law.

READ  MORE...
“When the BBL is passed by Congress and hopefully ratified, that will be the time everything will normalize and we will disclose that,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal’s appeal

“But at this point in time, I request the Honorable body not to compel me to reveal my identity,” he added.

Iqbal was backed by government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel Ferrer and Presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles who both said Iqbal’s use of an alias was part of his right to privacy.

“He is a very public person. He does have a family and children that carry his name. We know that the MILF still has enemies,” Deles said.

“There are privacy and security issues here (There is a) right to privacy of any public official,” Ferrer said.

Deles, however, said she did not know Iqbal’s real name, noting she had not read it in any document. For her part, Ferrer said she had known Iqbal’s real name due to her study of the Moro struggle.

“The identity does not only have to do with the name. It has also to do with biometrics. I don’t think there is any mask in his face. He can be called with different names but the fact is, he is one and the same person,” Ferrer said.

“Mr. Iqbal has been signing all the papers. He has never disappeared. Mr. Iqbal has stood by everything,” Deles added.

Issue of sincerity

Senators critical of Iqbal’s use of alias said the nom de guerre puts to question the sincerity of the MILF in the peace process that will be implemented by the BBL

Marcos said Iqbal can no longer cite security risks, saying the MILF negotiator is quite a public figure already.

“The gentleman is sitting here in front of cameras. So many people are seeing his face. The question of security is no longer part of the context,” Marcos said.

Senator Tito Sotto even walked out of the hearing, saying he would not talk to people he did not know the true identity.

“The BBL is a very important piece of legislation. I prefer discussing it with persons I know. Therefore I will just talk with you, Mr. Chairman, during the plenary,” Sotto said.

Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero said the issue of the name is easily resolved, adding that Iqbal can no longer cite security risks because he is a public person already.

“Maliit siya na bagay pero parang tinga sa ngipin na nakakairita, na dapat isantabi sa simpleng usapan,” Escudero said.

For his part, Senator Teofisto Guingona III said he sees no problem in Iqbal’s use of alias since Iqbal has remained committed to pursuing peace in his engagement with government for 15 years since 1997.

“So many years, he has used that name… I don’t see any problem with Mr. Iqbal using the present alias as long as we continue to the peace process until its final end,” Guingona said.

Iqbal is accused of using different names in his passports especially after the Bureau of Immigration said the name Mohagher Iqbal was not in its records.

Speculations are also rife that Iqbal is a Malaysian citizen. Iqbal has denied this allegation.

The peace panel and even Justice Secretary Leila de Lima have said that Iqbal’s use of an alias did not invalidate the peace deal documents.


MANILA STANDARD

Cayetano says Iqbal really Datucan Abas By Macon Ramos-Araneta | Apr. 17, 2015 at 12:01am


CAYETANO

SENATE Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said Thursday he is 100 percent sure that Datucan Abas is the real name of Mohagher Iqbal, the chief negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), based on his criminal records and his school records from the Manuel L. Quezon University in Manila from which he graduated.

Cayetano said Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta was the lawyer of Iqbal and the other leaders of the MILF—Al Hadz Ibrahim Salamat, Aleeem Aziz Mimbantas, Ghadzli Jaafar and Eid Kabalu--when they were charged with multiple murder over the Davao bombings in 2003.

Twenty people died and 143 were injured in the Davao International Airport bombing March 4, 2003. Seventeen were killed and 56 were wounded in the bombing at the Davao City Sasa wharf on April 2, 2003.

Cayetano said he was baffled why government peace chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer told the Senate hearing on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) last April 13 she does not know any case filed against Iqbal, whether under his alias or his real name.

READ MORE...
“Remember, Chairman Ferrer said she does not know of any case against Iqbal. I’m just wondering why she did not know because the MILF leadership, including Datucan Abas Mohagher Iqbal, was issued warrants of arrest in connection with the bombings at Sasa Wharf and Davao Airport. His name was there,” said Cayetano.

Cayetano surmised the government is just hiding these facts because they are negotiating peace—with people who were engaged in bombings.

“Also, they didn’t answer the hard question—is it true that they even targeted civilians like what happened in the Rizal Day bombing, the bombings in bus stations, the Sasa Wharf bombing...

maybe, that’s one thing they’re hiding. That’s why, Ferrer and (presidential adviser on peace process Teresita) Deles were saying they’re not terrorists,” Cayetano said.

Cayetano said he also dug into the school records of Iqbal and found that he carried the name Datucan Abas.

He said this name appeared in the certification issued by MLQU acting registrar Norman Guillermo that said the Moro leader obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in April 1969 and a Master of Arts major in Political Science in April 1972.

He also used the name Datucan Abas in his masteral thesis entitled, “Muslim Secession in the Philippines.”

There were other documents signed by then Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Joey Lina and then Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) chief Eduardo Ermita showing that Iqbal used the name Datucan Abas, Cayetano said.

Cayetano said there was no need to conceal the true identity of Iqbal because many were in possession of documents showing his real name even as early as 2003.

He said Iqbal’s use of a psuedonym would not be an issue if he admitted his real identity from the start.

Iqbal had told the Senate he was using an alias but refused to reveal his true name for security reasons.

During Monday’s resumption of hearings on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. pressed Iqbal to reveal his true name. But Iqbal begged the senators not to compel him to do so, as this might endanger him and his family.

Acosta on Thursday confirmed that Iqbal’s name was Datucan Abas whe he and others were charged for the bombing of Sasa Wharf and the Davao International Airport. The charges were dismissed.

“Iqbal used the name of Datucan Abas,” she said.

“His true name is Datucan Abas. We defended them all who were all in the order of battle, members and officials of the MILF,” she said in a radio interview. – With Florante S. Solmerin and Rio N. Araja


GMA NEWS ONLINE

Esmael Abubakar alias Kumander Bungos is new BIFF head April 15, 2015 10:52am


Esmael Abubakar is new BIFF chief Esmael Abubakar is new BIFF chief. Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters vice chairman for political affairs Sheik Esmael Abubakar alias Kumander Bungos (right) sits beside BIFF founder and chairman Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato in this photo taken in April 2011 in Maguindanao. Abubakar took over the helm of the BIFF on Tuesday, April 14, after Kato reportedly died of a stroke. Mark Navales/File

Following the death of its founder and leader Ameril Umbra Kato on Tuesday, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters named Sheik Esmail/Ismael Abubakar alias Kumander Bungos as head of the rebel group.

BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama told GMA News Online in a phone interview that the group decided to have the 40-year-old Abubakar take over Kato's post.

Prior to his appointment, Abubakar was the former chief of the political affairs of the BIFF. He is also active in the military offensive.

Abubakar also served as the brigade commander of the 105th Base Command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The BIFF is a splinter group of the MILF.

Abubakar studied in the Middle East, is an expert at Shariah law, and took on the title of sheik.

READ MORE...
Misry Mama refused to reveal the group's plans but gave the assurance it will continue the legacy of its founder.

The BIFF spokesman admitted Kato's death is a big loss to the group. However, he said it does not mean the group will lose its power, contrary to the claim of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that the BIFF will become weaker now that Kato has died.

Kato passed away before dawn Tuesday due to a stroke.

Misry Mama told GMA News Online Kato was buried at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Mindanao.

In 2008, Kato led attacks in Mindanao after the Supreme Court junked a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain between the MILF and the Arroyo administration. —Ferdinandh Cabrera/KG, GMA News


INQUIRER

‘BIFF will not die with Ameril Umbra Kato’ From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 14):


Ameril Umbra Kato, seated, the commander of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the breakaway faction of Moro Islamic Liberation Front, is interviewed by the media inside his rebel stronghold in Maguindanao in this file photo. AP Ameril Umbra Kato, the founding chair of the breakaway rebel group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), is dead.

Abu Misri Mama, speaking for BIFF, in a phone interview confirmed that the group’s founding chair “has returned to his creator.” He added that BIFF followers have accepted Kato’s fate but vowed that “BIFF will not die with him.”

Mama said he had talked with the BIFF leader’s son who confirmed the death in a phone conversation. Mama said he decided not to go to where Kato was buried as it was too far and because Kato was already buried Tuesday morning.

“I’ve talked to his son who confirmed the death of his father. He was buried this (Tuesday) morning,” he said.

Earlier, Mayor Samsodin Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao, quoting Kato’s relatives and close allies, said the BIFF founding chair suffered a cardiac arrest at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday in his hideout in a remote village of Guindulungan, Maguindanao.

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“Yes, his relatives confirmed he succumbed to cardiac arrest,” Dimaukom told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, adding that the 69-year-old renegade leader suffered a mild stroke in 2011.

Mama said they have accepted the fate of their founding leader.

“We cannot do anything about it. We will mourn but BIFF will not die with him,” Mama said.

Revolutionary organization

According to Mama, the structure of BIFF, as a revolutionary organization, ensures that if a person or a leader dies, someone will automatically replace him to ensure the continuity of their struggle.

The rebel spokesperson said the council of leaders of BIFF would immediately meet to talk about the direction and the adjustments in the organization.

“As of the moment, BIFF’s vice chair for political affairs Ustadz Abubakr Esmael will temporarily fill up the position until the plenary,” Mama said.

In 2011, Kato was also reported to have died after he suffered a mild stroke. READ: Ameril Umbra Kato dead–Muslim leader

In 2008, Kato, then the commander of Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s 105th base command, led a group of MILF forces in attacking civilian communities following the Supreme Court’s decision declaring the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain unconstitutional.

In 2009, Kato broke away from MILF, due to what he called “abandonment” when the the group’s central committee declared a suspension of military actions to end the yearlong war due to the botched signing of the MOA-AD and disagreements in the conduct of the peace talks with the government. He then formed BIFF. He was replaced by his deputy, Zacaria Goma, as commander of MILF 105th base command.

The BIFF has since been attacking military positions in Maguindanao and North Cotabato. It, along with the MILF’s 105th base command, was also involved in the Jan. 25 fighting in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, that left 44 police commandos, 17 rebels and three civilians dead.

A month after the Mamasapano carnage, the military launched an all-out offensive against the BIFF, which is suspected of coddling bomber Basit Usman. The military said it killed more than 100 BIFF rebels in the month-long offensive.

Posted by Retired Analyst at 10:22 PM No comments:


GMA NEWS ONLINE

AFP says death of Umbra Kato to further weaken BIFF By AMANDA FERNANDEZ,GMA News April 14, 2015 4:51pm


The late Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) founder Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato is seen in this file photo taken in 2011 somewhere in Maguindanao. AFP public affairs chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc on Tuesday, April 14, said the military is '99.9 percent sure' Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato is dead, since they have received similar information from a commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Kato is reported to have succumb from a stroke. Mark Navales/File

The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Tuesday said the reported death of Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato, founder of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, may weaken further the outlawed group.

At a press briefing, AFP public affairs chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc described Kato as a charismatic leader who had influenced many young fighters to join his group.

"More or less 150 na lang sila [sa BIFF], kung wala nang nag-i-inspire, kung wala nang charismatic sa kanilang grupo, dahan-dahang wala nang sasali [sa BIFF]," he said. "Lalo nang hihina ang kanilang hanay, dahan-dahan nang mawawala ang influence ng BIFF as a group."

Cabunoc earlier said they were 99.9 percent sure that Kato is dead.

"99.9 percent dahil ang MILF mismo ang nagsabi, maging ang pamangkin ni Umbra Kato na MILF rin, kinumpirma," he said.

He added that based on initial information, Kato died around 2 a.m. Tuesday in Barangay Kateman in Guindulungan town in Maguindanao due to cardiac arrest.

READ MORE...
However, he could not fully confirm the information as they are still waiting for pictures to prove the death of Kato.

"This time, even a ranking commander of the MILF has reported that he (Kato) has indeed died," he said. "Pero wala pang picture, gusto natin na kapag may picture, wala nang pagdedebate."

For his part, AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said: "Kato is the source of inspiration by the members of the BIFF who joined him in waging violent attacks against peaceful communities."

"If he indeed has died, the group will lose its influence and will see its gradual demise due to the lack of popular support," Kakilala added.

More 'radical' Kagi Karialan

Meanwhile, Cabunoc said Kagi Karialan will be replacing Kato as head of the BIFF.

Cabunoc described Karialan as "more aggressive and radical" than Kato, but the threat, according to him, "remains the same."

He added that Karialan, about 50 years old, has been one of those leading the BIFF since Kato had a stroke in November 2011.

He was also among those who fought during the military's all-out offensive against the BIFF in Maguindanao.

The military launched offensive operations against Basit Usman and the members of the BIFF involved in the Jan. 25 encounter with the Philippine National Police Special Action Force in Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano town. The encounter cost the lives of 44 SAF troopers.

The target of the operation was to arrest suspected Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Usman. Authorities said Marwan was killed during the operation but Usman managed to escape.

Before its end last March 30, the military offensives were conducted in four towns in Maguindanao: Salibo, Pagatin, Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak, or the “SPMS box,” where BIFF members are believed to have retreated with Usman. — RSJ, GMA News


MANILA STANDARD VIEWPOINT

No final peace in Mindanao By Emil Jurado | Apr. 15, 2015 at 12:01am

President Aquino is convinced that the Bangsamoro Basic Law is the way to peace and development and Mindanao.

Equally convinced are his friends and allies in the Peace Council, which the President himself formed.

Yes, the people of Mindanao have long been suffering from strife and internecine war. But does the BBL really guarantee peace and development ?

Should not the ratification of the BBL be nationwide because the P75 billion initial funding for the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity will come from all Filipinos who pay their taxes?

Those who know Muslim history and culture will tell you that peace cannot be guaranteed.

Foremost, the Aquino administration is talking to only one segment of the Moro rebels – the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. But the MILF is divided into three factions.

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There is the MILF proper headed by Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim (MILF chairman), Ghadzali Jafaar (vice chairman), and Mohagher Iqbal (peace negotiator), all using their noms de guerre or aliases. These men claim that the MILF remains a revolutionary organization until the full implementation of the BBL.

There are also the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the MILF “lost command” that specializes in extortion and kidnapping.

That the Aquino government chooses to talk peace with only the MILF is a stupid thing to do. The government should know that there are many other movements at war with government, seeking independence. The fact that Middle East jihadists are now in Mindanao is another cause for concern.

The MILF itself has no full control over the other separatists. This was shown by the slaughter of the 44 police commandos in Mamasapano. The MILF leaders claimed they were not aware of the fact that international terrorist Marwan and Filipino terrorist Abdul Basit Usman were in their “territory.”

The police commandos were able to kill only Marwan; Usman got away. In the MILF report, the MILF leadership claimed that some of its members may have known about this, but not the MILF as an organization. It was a lame excuse, giving proof to claims that the MILF is no longer a monolithic group.

Santa Banana, even the main organization of Misuari’s Moro National Liberation Front is split three ways.Another group is headed by the former mayor of Cotabato City, while yet another is headed by a Maranao (they do not like to be headed by Misuari, a Tausog from Sulu). This simply proves the deep tribal differences among the Maranaos, Maguindanaos and the Tausogs.

There’s also the Pentagon Gang, located at the Liguasan marshlands. They only go to cities and towns to do their worst.

My gulay, don’t count out the Sultanate of Sulu that has a claim on Sabah as shown by historical records. The fact that the Malaysian government still pays rent yearly to the Sultanate is enough proof of it. Recall that it sent some 200 heavily-armed Tausogs to Sabah some years ago to lay their claim, but failed.

Then, there’s still the potent terror group Abu Sayyaf in Basilan and Sulu. Just like the BIFF, the Abus have links with jihadists from the Middle East and the ISIS terror movement. This is another problem that presents a big challenge to the peace and development of Mindanao.

Coupled with the Moro rebel problem are the Lumads and other indigenous tribes to be included in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. Reports have it that they are now gathering arms to prevent the Moro rebels from invading their lands.

Above all, don’t discount the Christians that would be included in the proposed territory. They, too, are fully armed as they were when during the era of “Toothpick,” an Ilonggo that was a match for the MNLF incursion into Christian communities. My gulay, out of reported 1.2 million loose firearms nationwide, there are some 600,000 in Mindanao.

Lasting peace and development in Mindano?

That’s a joke and the people know it. Christians in Mindanao know too well how the Moros tick since their culture and history prove it. They are clannish and tribal in nature so much so that one clan cannot afford to be out-gunned, much more subjugated by another clan. History tells us that the Moros were never colonized by the Spaniards, the Americans and the Japanese. They have always considered themselves independent.

The President and his peace negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferrer and peace adviser Teresita Deles seem to have been given love potions by the MILF leaders. Government peace negotiators and advisers are now taking the side of the MILF and even speaking on their behalf. This is shown by their undying defense of Iqbal using his alias in signing the Framework Agreement of the Bangsamoro in October 2012 and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in March 2014.

To make it even worse, Senator TG Guingona, who is from Mindanao, has belittled the use of noms de guerre by the MILF leaders. He says it’s a political issue. I could not believe it, coming from the son of my good friend, former Senator and Vice President Teofisto Guingona.

By using aliases since the beginning, the MILF showed duplicity of purpose going to the negotiating table as a “revolutionary organization.” Iqbal himself stated that they would not accept the BBL’s watered-down version. Santa Banana, now the MILF is blackmailing and threatening government!

The MILF wants to have its cake and eat it, too. It all boils down to trust. With the duplicity of the MILF, can government still trust it?


EARLIER THIS PAST WEEK: MANILA STANDARD EDITORIAL

Lies upon lies Apr. 13, 2015 at 12:01am

THE revelation that top officials of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front used pseudonyms when they signed various peace agreements with the government is just the latest example of how the Aquino administration has been piling lie upon lie to build an unstable foundation for peace in Mindanao.

Administration officials have been tripping over themselves to explain that they knew this all along, and that there was nothing wrong with revolutionaries using their noms de guerre to sign legally binding documents, but it seems like some officials did not get the memo.

The presidential adviser on the peace process, Teresita Deles, for example, said she did not know that Mohagher Iqbal, the name used by the MILF chief negotiator, was a pseudonym until he admitted this last week.

This leaves two possibilities: the government’s top peace official was left our of the loop or she was lying. Neither possibility is particularly attractive or reassuring, but given this administration’s aversion for the truth and transparency, the latter seems more likely.

After all, President Benigno Aquino III has led by example, piling lie upon lie on the covert law enforcement operation that he authorized, and that led to the deaths of 44 police commandos at the hands of Muslim rebels, including those from the MILF, which defended the massacre as an act of self defense.

In the aftermath of the debacle, Mr. Aquino tried to play down the fact that he had entrusted the operation to his good friend, then suspended police chief Alan Purisima, who kept the mission so secret that the military was unprepared to provide timely support to the beleaguered police commandos.

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The President has since refused to answer 20 questions posed to him by opposition lawmakers, including one particularly disturbing suggestion that the President ordered the military to stand down when the police commandos in Mamasapano called for help, simply because he did not want to jeopardize peace talks with the MILF.

The lack of honesty also pervades the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that the President wants Congress to pass, regardless of provisions that clearly violate the Constitution.

Faced with mounting criticism of the flawed document and serious questions about the trustworthiness of his peace partners, the MILF, the President created his own forum on the draft law, calling it the National Peace Summit, and stocked it with personalities and groups that are friendly to his administration and uncritical of his policies.

Mr. Aquino seeks to separate the BBL discussion from the Mamasapano incident because of the public outrage over the killing of 44 police officers. Saying the two are unrelated, however, is yet another fiction that Mr. Aquino would have us swallow.

We cannot build a just and lasting peace on a foundation of lies, but that is exactly what Mr. Aquino, his negotiating team and his minions in Congress would have us do.

It is time we spoke truth to power and said no.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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