Thursday, October 27, 2011

MILF: We did not buy guns with P5M government grant

Moro Islamic Liberation Front vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar confirmed receiving a P5-million check from the government last August to train Bangsamoro leaders, and denied that it was used to buy arms as claimed in a widely quoted viral text which falsely inflated the figure to P5 billion. Jaafar added that the P5 million remains untouched.

The text messages added fuel to the fire of outrage sparked by the killings last week of 19 government troops in Basilan that have been blamed on the MILF. Last August, GMA News Online reported the government donation for the MILF-affiliated leadership institute, but it didn't trigger any public reaction then in the warm glow of President Aquino's historic meeting with MILF leader Murad Ebrahim in Japan.

The slaughter of government soldiers in Basilan aroused public opinion that pounced on the supposed irony of a sizable government donation to the rebel army responsible for the attack and more recent ones in western Mindanao.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Wednesday that the P5-million "grant" to the Bangsamoro Leadership Management Institute (BLMI) was a fulfillment of a government commitment to the MILF made by the Arroyo administration in 2007.

According to a report on GMA News, the check was handed to the MILF Peace Panel during exploratory talks held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in late August.


Government peace negotiator Marvic Leonen sought to counteract the ‘rumors’ spread by SMS by clarifying via his Twitter account that the check was for P5 million and it was given in Kuala Lumpur and not Tokyo during the Aquino-Murad meeting.

Leonen highlighted the donation to the BLMI in his official statement last August 23 at the conclusion of exploratory talks with the MILF in Kuala Lumpur.

A goodwill gesture, the funds were intended to foster the growth of civil society in Muslim Mindanao. Excerpts from Leonen's statement:

"The BLMI is envisioned to be a center of excellence and repository of knowledge in the discipline of human resource development that produces individuals of impeccable character, equipped with exemplary leadership and managerial qualities for the transformation of the Bangsamoro people.

It is government’s commitment to help in the development of future Bangsamoro leaders and managers who will utilize their political and socio-economic knowledge and skills to improve the situation in the Bangsamoro homeland."

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) also tweeted that the funds were intended to "fast track the establishment of the institute (BLMI)."

An online search of the institute, however, revealed that the BLMI has existed at least since 2008 when it began to receive support from the Asia Foundation, a US-funded grant-giving organization, according to the foundation's web site.

The BLMI is described by the Asia Foundation as "enhancing leadership capability of Bangsamoro women leaders."

The institute was reported in media in 2009 to have sponsored training for women. The training was conducted by the Development Academy of the Philippines-Mindanao, a reputable training institute for civil servants.

Jaafar clarified that the money did not go to MILF chairman Murad and that instead it had gone straight to the MILF peace panel.

He also said that the MILF peace panel is obliged to report to their government counterparts how the money will be used, preventing any misuse of the funds.

That obligation presumes a certain level of trust. It remains to be seen whether both sides can retain that trust in light of the October 18 Basilan massacre and the public outrage in its wake.— BC/ELR/HS, GMA News
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