MANILA, Philippines?A target of a military manhunt for two months, Ameril Ombra Kato of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has appeared in a video posted on YouTube?mocking his pursuers for failing to find him.
Running almost nine minutes, the video was posted on Sept. 30 by a subscriber with the user ID ?Bangsamoro08,? and has had 201 hits as of yesterday afternoon.
Wearing a cap, Kato looked alert and showed nothing in his appearance to indicate that he had been wounded?as claimed by the military.
The military has said Kato was injured in the armpit during a recent encounter with government forces in Central Mindanao.
Kato?s appearance on YouTube, the Internet video sharing site, marked the first time the MILF commander was seen by the public since the military launched an offensive in August to hunt him and fellow MILF commanders Abdullah Macapaar, alias Bravo, and Aleem Sulaiman Pangalian, as well as their followers.
The three rebel commanders are wanted for what the military said were atrocities they committed in North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte, and Saranggani provinces after the collapse of the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain between the government and the MILF, which envisages the establishment of an expanded Moro homeland.
The government has offered a P10-million bounty each for the capture of Kato and Bravo, and another P5 million for the capture of Pangalian.
?It appears to be him (Kato) although he is thinner and darker,? Brig. Gen. Jorge Segovia, military spokesperson for the Central Mindanao, said of the video. ?He was not too coherent. Maybe he feels the world is crumbling down on him.?
Segovia dismissed Kato as a ?crazed man.?
Kato shrugged off reports about the money for his capture, saying it was nothing more than an indication that the military had run out of tactics to capture him and his followers.
?I am still here?
Kato described the bounty on him as a ?pre-modern tactic? that was used even by enemies of Prophet Mohammed in a jihad, or holy war.
?Maybe they are running out of tactics,? Kato said in Filipino. ?They have tried everything against us. They have resorted to air attacks, used artillery, ground forces with heavy weapons and armory vehicles.
?They have used all that and yet we are still here. Now all they have left is to offer P10 million to people who would be able to kill me, capture me or pinpoint where I am.?
Kato also said that the military offensive in Central Mindanao appeared to have been planned by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the government to give them a reason not to push through with the memorandum of agreement.
Kato said he was also hurt by accusations that he was a terrorist.
Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. scoffed at Kato?s YouTube appearance and said that it was a stunt aimed at taunting the military.
He said that Kato should ?better surrender? and save his statements before a judge.
?I think he lacks any credibility whatsoever ... and his appearing right now is a taunt to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. It is a taunt to goad us into losing our cool, to make mistakes. We are not biting the bait that he is setting. We know the game that he is playing,? Teodoro said.
The video opened with the camera focused on Kato carrying a rifle and wearing a dark, collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up. His eyes were shifty during the interview. Birds could be heard chirping in the background.
Kato was surrounded by six armed followers.
In a voice-over, the interviewer said the video was taken on Sept. 23, 2008. He asked Kato to confirm his identity.
?Ustadz .... Are you really Ameril Umbra Kato,? the interviewer asked in Filipino.
?Yes, I am,? Kato said, describing himself as the commanding officer of the 105th Base Command of the Central Mindanao Front of the MILF.