New “pocket wars” looms in Mindanao

The group of MILF Kumander Ameril Umbra Kato is reportedly massing up in an undisclosed place in Mindanao ready to wage another “war” against the military and the government.

Kato, together with fellow MILF commander Abdulrahman Macapaar, alias Commander Bravo, are known to have led terrorist attacks against the military and civilian residents in the region, particularly in select target areas in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, Saranggani and North Cotabato.

Both Kato and Bravo have a multi-million-peso prize tags on their heads for their capture, dead or alive. And both could join forces in their effort to disrupt the RP-MILF peace talks and create trouble in Mindanao.

In 2008, Kato and his men led the pillaging of some areas in North Cotabato, burning and robbing houses of civilians, many of them Christians, apparently to drive home a point that they are indigenous people in the area and can’t be driven away by the military to other places.


Kato is facing 50 different criminal cases that include 22 cases of arson, robbery, multiple murder and kidnapping for the atrocities he and his men committed.

Kato’s rampage in North Cotabato in November 2008 resulted to the displacement of more than 50,000 residents and left scores of people dead apparently in protest against a Supreme Court decision preventing the signing of RP-MILF Memorundum on Ancestral Domain in August of same year.

He claimed the attacks in North Cotabato was also because many of his fellow MILF men living/stationed there were being driven away from their lands by the military to protect the 2,000 hectare rubber plantation of Gov. Emmanuel “Manny” Pinol.

I don’t know if there is any truth in Kato’s claim. But if it’s true, Manny Pinol could be a very rich man by now, compared to what he was/has in the early 1990s before he became a governor.


Recently, we got information that Kato had been able to amass, produce and acquire numerous high-powered firearms and bombs that could match the military’s might in the province.

The source said the MILF had allegedly perfected the art of locally manufacturing rocket-propelled grenades, long and short firearms. They also allegedly now have imported long-range sniper rifles similar to the Barret sniper rifle being used by US soldiers.

While there was lull in the RP-MILF peace talks and the Ampatuan family members are facing serious legal problems for the Maguindanao massacre, the MILF reportedly had been slowly but surely fortifying their stronghold in Camp Abubakar and other camps in Maguindanao.


Allegedly working with the group of Kumander Basit Usman of the Al-qaeda regional network Jemaah Islamiyah, Kato is reportedly at odds with the MILF leaders who did not support him in his all-out war plans against the government.

Kato had reportedly been replaced in 2009 Kumander Teng Sacaria Goma from the ranks of Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces General Staff.  MILF vice chair for political affairs Gadzaali Jaafar said the decision to replace Kato came from the MILF Central Committee and approved by Chair Aljads Murad Ibrahim.

From my viewpoint, I think it was all just a charade. The MILF would need Kato as long as he lives.


If I recall it right, both Kato and Bravo were allegedly “assets” of the military in the past and there is no reason why they can’t be activated anytime if the price is right. Both could join forces in their effort to disrupt the RP-MILF peace talks and create new trouble in Mindanao for a fee. War is business and the AFP doesn’t want the peace talks, with the MILF or the NPA, to succeed.

If one would trace back the “big events” in Mindanao between the MILF and the military, one would notice that these things usually transpire between the months of July and December, the period when the government submits its succeeding year’s budget proposal for Congressional approval.

It is during those period, while the DND and the AFP are defending their multi-billion-peso intelligence and capital outlay budgets in Congress, that “pocket wars” erupts in Mindanao. Talk about an AFP-inspired war in Mindanao?


For feedback and comments, please email me at Romie A. Evangelista

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