Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gov’t to MILF: Account for P5M, Gadhafi funding

Malacañang is asking the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to account for the P5 million that it gave the rebel group during the last peace negotiations on August 22-23 in Kuala Lumpur, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Wednesday.

Reacting to media reports that the MILF used the money to buy guns and ammunition, Lacierda said that Marvic Leonen, head of the government negotiating panel, would seek an accounting of the check he handed in the Kuala Lumpur talks.

The P5 million was intended for the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI).

“We will be expecting a report on the outcome of the P5 million; where it went. And we hope that the MILF will also clarify this part,” Lacierda said in a radio interview.

Arroyo commitment

“The P5 million is a commitment made by the previous administration. It is intended to fast-track the establishment of the institute,” Leonen said.

In a news release, Leonen dismissed reports that President Benigno Aquino III gave the funds to the MILF to buy guns and ammunition as alleged by a malicious text message.

The creation of the institute was finalized and formally agreed upon during the 14th formal exploratory talks held on Nov. 14-15, 2007, with funding commitment from the Philippine government to start the institute’s operations.

The BLMI was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, enabling the institute to receive assistance from donor institutions such as the Japan International Cooperation Agency, which financed the construction of the institute’s building.

“During his one-on-one meeting with MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim in Tokyo on August 5, the President again expressed his support for the BLMI. He then instructed the peace panel to hand the check to the Moro group,” Leonen said.

“We will not let false reports undermine the peace process. I urge the public to stay heedful of what is happening and analytical of the information that they receive,” Leonen said.

Clampdown on funding

Also yesterday, lawmakers urged the Anti-Money Laundering Council (Amlac) and other intelligence bodies to clamp down on the MILF’s international funding sources after it was revealed that the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi had bankrolled the rebellion.

Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo Angara said the government should step up its intelligence efforts to track the foreign funding of the Moro rebellion which had been costing the government billions of pesos in military expenses and thousands of civilian and military lives lost in clashes.

He said that the government should demand full transparency from the MILF negotiations and demand that they bare their financiers.

“It would be ideal for them to reveal these sources but quite frankly I doubt the MILF will ever do so,” Angara said in a text message.

Muntinlupa Representative Rodolfo Biazon said that military intelligence should investigate how the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front had been able to get international funding since the 1970s.

Two Moro rebel leaders—former MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu and former Assemblyman Macabangkit Lanto—have admitted in separate media interviews that MILF was among the beneficiaries of Gadhafi’s money since the 1970s.

Confidence-building

In the wake of Gadhafi’s downfall, the new leaders in Tripoli are coordinating with foreign officials to uncover the hidden assets of the former Libyan leader, including rebel beneficiaries.

“How come they have let this international funding go on? Where will they get new international funding sources now that Gadhafi is dead and Osama bin Laden is gone. We thought Hashim Salamat was the life of the MILF but even when he died, the funding from abroad still continued,” Biazon said in a phone interview.

Ako Bicol Representative Rodel Batocabe said that while revealing the MILF financiers would contribute to the confidence-building process, it behooved the military intelligence forces to have established these financiers’ funds and cut these off years ago.

“Any government with a respectable intelligence network would certainly know the sources of support of insurgents and would naturally institute measures to neutralize such support. Whatever the MILF will reveal is supposed to be already known by our government. Otherwise, we really have a serious problem with our national security,” Batocabe said.

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