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INTERIOR SEC PUNO TO MILF: (UPDATE) ‘Surrender wanted commanders, get P25-M reward’

Posted by Abi Kwok on September 8, 2008

Rebels reject offer as “unethical”

By Abigail Kwok, Nikko Dizon
INQUIRER.net, Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 16:49:00 09/08/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has promised the P25-million bounty for Ameril Ombra Kato, Abdullah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo, and Aleem Sulayman Pangalian to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) if it surrenders the three wanted commanders.

In a statement Monday, Secretary Ronaldo Puno said the money would help the Moro rebels build “economically underdeveloped communities in Mindanao” and “develop Muslim communities in Mindanao.”

But MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal rejected Puno’s proposal in a telephone interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net), saying: “Our commanders are not for sale.”

Iqbal said surrendering Macapaar, Kato, and Pangalian in exchange for the bounty would be “unethical.”

Kato, Macapaar and Pangalian are wanted for allegedly leading their MILF units in attacking civilian communities in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte last month, soon after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against the signing of a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain between the government and the secessionist organization.

The three, against whom multiple criminal charges have been filed, are the target of military offensives that the government has vowed to press through the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“If the members of the MILF central committee want to help their fellow Muslims, then the best [thing] they can do is to turn over Bravo, Kato, and even Pangalian to the authorities so that they can get the reward and use the amount to fund development projects in impoverished communities in Mindanao,” Puno said.

On Friday, the DILG doubled the reward for information leading to the capture of Kato and Bravo from P5 million to P10 million each. The bounty for Pangalian is set at P5 million.

Iqbal said the MILF would investigate the three commanders to verify if they had indeed committed crimes during attacks on civilian communities in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte.

“If they indeed committed any violations, then it’s the MILF that would punish them,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal said that the best way to resolve the ongoing conflict in Central Mindanao would be through the Joint Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities.

In an interview over the weekend, Iqbal said that despite the hefty reward money, the Bangsamoro people would not turn over the three MILF commanders as they are regarded as “heroes” fighting for the people’s aspirations.

“The people will protect them,” Iqbal said.

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