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Peace panel chair dismisses rumors linking PNoy to MILF

Government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen dismissed "malicious text messages" alleging that President Benigno Aquino III gave P5 million to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to buy guns and ammunition.

Leonen clarified that the money was intended to jumpstart theBangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI), a training center for Bangsamoro leaders and managers. “The P5 million is a commitment made by the previous administration. It is intended to fast-track the establishment of the institute,” he explained in a statement Wednesday.

Leonen revealed that he handed the P5-million check to MILF chairAl Haj Murad Ibrahim during the last round of formal exploratory talks between the rebel group and the government in August in Kuala Lumpur.

Leonen said that Aquino has approved the appropriation for the BLMI. “During his one-on-one meeting with MILF chair Murad in Tokyo last August, the president again expressed his support to the BLMI. He then instructed the peace panel to hand the check to the Moro group,” Leonen added.

According to the panel chair, the establishment of BLMI was first discussed in 2006. It was then finalized and formally agreed upon in 2007 with the funding commitment from the government to jumpstart the institute’s operations.

Leonen stressed that the government will remain steadfast in finding a peaceful solution to the armed conflict. “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,” he said.

Aquino recently refused to heed the calls of various sectors for an all-out war against the MILF after 19 soldiers were killed in an encounter in Basilan. He said in his statement on Monday that those who have appealed for an all-out war “may come from those who do not have a full awareness of all the factors at play.” Instead of an all-out war, the president called for "all-out justice."


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