In Northern Ireland, the negotiators have to grapple with 19 political or armed groups including the militant Irish Republican Army; in South Sudan with four major groups and several minor organizations; in Palestine, seven groups, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (although some of these became irrelevant as a result of the hard conflict and emerging new realities or complexities on the ground) and the Islamic groups led by Hamas and at least three other sub-groups; the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has at least six factions; and the National Democratic Front (NDF) with three or four sub-groups, dubbed as “rejectionists”. But despite these splits, their respective counterparts in government have proceeded to go on with the peace negotiations and some succeeded to forge agreements, especially in South Sudan and Northern Ireland.
The case of Ameril Ombra (correct spelling is Omra) Kato in the MILF should be seen in this light. His group is very small; it is a molehill and not a mountain. The GPH-MILF peace process has enough mechanisms to address all probable problems that may arise in the course of the talks, including this group. We have the International Monitoring Team (IMT), the Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), the Local Monitoring Team (LMT) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG).
Frankly, we do not know how the government handles Kato and BIFF after the MILF would disclose their final status in the organization. The statement of the government through its peace panel chairman Dean Marvic Leonen disclosed during the consultation of local government executives in Maguindanao last April 13, that the “position of government will be revealed” after the MILF makes its report on April 27-28 21st GPH-MILF Exploratory Talks in Kuala Lumpur is pregnant with meanings.
But whatever the government has in mind, it must remember that Kato became problematic to the MILF after the government did not sign the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in August 2008. We might be tempted to say, Kato is an indirect creation of the government, as it had created (indirectly?) the Abu Sayyaf in early 1990s after it infiltrated the group with pseudo-converts to Islam like Edwin Angeles.
But this point in time, we have not given up on Kato. There is still enough time for him to reconsider going back to the fold of the MILF. We are not closing our doors for him to rejoin the MILF. We keep telling him that founding an anti-government and armed movement is a lifetime journey. He is too old -- he is 76 years old -- to see the dawn of his efforts, while the MILF has already earned legitimacy and recognition.