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Kato’s ‘proof of life’ out

MANILA – Rouge leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and founder of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) Ameril Umbra Kato is reportedly alive following rumors that he died of heart attack in November.

ABS-CBN has shown photographs of Kato with Mercado Salangani, media officer of the defunct Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

In one photo, Kato was next to Salangani, who was holding a Manila Bulletin dated December 8, 2011. Kato, wearing a BIFF t-shirt and a black bonnet, looked sickly.

Salangani told the TV station the photo was taken inside a house where Kato is undergoing therapy after he suffered a stroke. Early this year, Kato and about 200 followers broke off from the MILF, saying peace talks with the government are pointless.

The MILF earlier insisted that Kato is already dead, citing sources in the secessionist group. But the reports were disputed by BIFF members. The military has said it is best if a proof of life can be obtained to verify the ‘lost’ commander’s status.

SecurityMatters maintains that it holds little relevance if Kato is alive or not. First off, the rogue commander is already 65 years old and may have already relinquished some of his power to his deputies. Second, if Kato has indeed passed away, he still has able and willing commanders under him who will fill the vacuum of power.

The only thing that is worrisome is that these commanders may not have the same ideological profile as that of Kato. Despite his differences with the MILF leadership, Kato has been faithful to Salamat’s principles. The younger BIFF leaders may not foster the ideals of the old warriors.