Maguindanao gov wants probe of UN rice going to Moro rebels
BULUAN, Maguindanao— Maguindanao Gov. Ismael Mangudadatu on Sunday called for an investigation on why rice supplies of the United Nations World Food Program (UN-WFP) allegedly ended in the hands of breakaway Moro rebels behind the attacks that have displaced thousands of residents.
Mangudadatu, in a press conference Sunday, told reporters that empty sacks of rice with UN-WFP markings were discovered by government security forces when they cleared on Aug. 10 the stretch of national highway from Datu Unsay and Shariff Aguak towns after being under the control of followers of Ameril Umra Kato of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) since Aug. 5.
“We want this investigated. We are looking for the people who supplied the rebels with the rice,” the governor said.
Asaka Nyangara, WFP deputy country director, in a text message said their group would investigate “the circumstances and check with the beneficiaries on how they dispose or reuse the empty bags.”
“All food commodities distributed in the past were well accounted for and we can assure [the public] that no assistance had been delivered to any military or armed group camps,” Nyangara said.
“My name was even dragged into the issue. My detractors are saying it came from me when, in fact, UN-WFP supplies do not pass through us. It goes directly to the people,” Mangudadatu added.
Kato’s men simultaneously harassed military detachments in Maguindanao and occupied parts of the highway, prompting the military to close it to motorists due to fierce fighting.
Mangudadatu said as part of a long-term solution, the government would put more police and military troops along the highway to prevent a similar occurrence.
Senior Supt. Marcelo Pintac, provincial police commander of Maguindanao, said they were still checking who provided Kato’s group with high-powered weapons.
“They have a lot of strong weapons. At the same time, we are trying to figure out where their funds came from. These rebels cannot operate if they have no money,” the police official said.
The BIFF is the armed wing of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement that broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Kato, the group’s leader, used to be the commander of the MILF 105th Base Command. He was tagged as having led the attacks on civilian communities in North Cotabato in 2008, following the botched signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the government and MILF peace panels. Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao