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Aquino gave Murad P5M

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd reportedly gave P5 million to Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al Haj Murad Ibrahim during their secret meeting in a hotel in Tokyo, Japan on August 5.

Reports said that it was Malacañang peace adviser Marvic Leonen who handed the P5-million check to Murad.

Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte would neither confirm nor deny the transaction.

“I will have to check the details on that,” Valte told reporters during Tuesday’s briefing. She said, however, that if President Aquino did give P5 million to the MILF leader, it would be for social alleviation, education and other needs of the Muslim people.

But sources said that it was possible that the money was used to buy guns and ammunition.

Malacañang earlier said that the P5 million was ordered released by Mr. Aquino specifically to be used for the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLIMI), a mechanism intended to train young Muslim leaders and proposed by the MILF during earlier negotiations.

There were other reports, though, claiming that the money was not given during the President’s surreptitious visit to Tokyo, but during a meeting of the government peace panel and its MILF counterpart sometime in August.

MILF sources, meanwhile, said that Murad was hoping that the peace process would continue but he was disappointed by recent developments in Mindanao.

The sources said that the MILF leader was particularly dismayed by the decision of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to launch massive operations in several areas following clashes that left 19 soldiers dead. One source, identified only as Abdulrakhman, claimed that Murad was ready for war should the government decide to discontinue the peace negotiations.

“This was the gist of Murad’s statement in an interview with the Cotabato media. But Murad is still having doubts (about going to war) because he heard President Aquino’s statement directing military officials to conduct an investigation . . . of the Al-Barka clash,” the source said.

According to the insider, Murad is even considering the possibility that former MILF commander Ameril Umbra Kato, who was kicked out by the Muslim insurgent group, could have had a hand in the prolonged clash that also left five MILF fighters dead.

Prior to the deadly encounter, Murad received information that Kato, who founded the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), would make a scenario to provoke soldiers to launch operations against the MILF, the source said.

But the MILF chairman is ready at all times for any situation, especially if the incident in Sibugay results in a full-blown war, according to the sources.

Even before the Al-Barka encounter, the MILF leadership was already disappointed with the Aquino administration because of the failure of the first round of the peace negotiations.

“If the war in the southern part of Mindanao escalates, the MILF Central Committee is ready,” the sources quoted Murad as saying.

“A dead Moro is a brave Moro. This is the slogan of our freedom fighters. We believe that even if we die, we die fighting for our freedom,” the sources said.

If ever the situation would lead to war, the insiders said that the MILF would go to war not because of the incident that happened in Basilan province and the retaliation of the military, but because of the possibility that they could still attain what they seek—a Bangsamoro sub-state.
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