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P5-M grant to MILF not an Aquino commitment, Palace insists

Malacañang on Wednesday insisted that it only complied with the Arroyo administration’s commitment when it handed a P5-million check to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) check for the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI).

This was in response to the denial of Jesus Dureza, the presidential peace adviser during the Arroyo administration, that the Arroyo government committed a P5-million fund for BLMI.

“I am also trying hard to recall but during my watch, I was not privy to that P5-million alleged commitment by the Arroyo administration that Pres. Aquino is now claiming he is merely implementing and ‘delivering’," wrote Dureza in his Nov. 1 column published by MindaNews.

Durez served as chief negotiator from 2001 to 2003 and presidential peace adviser from 2006 to 2008.

In a press statement, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the establishment of the BLMI as a leadership training and management center was proposed during the 10th GRP-MILF Exploratory Talks in February of 2006.

She said both panels agreed to fast-track the BLMI’s establishment during the discussions last November 14 and 15, 2007, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She added that Dureza should discuss the matter with his fellow panel members at that time.

“Based on the documents in our possession, Rodolfo C. Garcia, then-chairman of the [government] peace panel, requested the funding assistance from Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo," Valte said.

She stressed that the fund assistance was given to a non-stock, nonprofit entity intended for training Moro leaders and other entities such as the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Asia Foundation have also extended contributions to the BLMI.

BLMI was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

JICA gave funds for the construction of the building that will house the institute. In 2000, Asia Foundation provided support for a series of workshops to draw up the vision and organizational structure of the BLMI.

Marvic Leonen, the government’s chief negotiator in the peace talks with the MILF, said President Benigno Aquino III approved the appropriation for the BLMI during the consultation with the panel early this year.

Leonen said he personally handed the P5-million check to MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ibrahim during their last round of formal exploratory talks on August 22-23 in Kuala Lumpur.

The awarding of the check was announced during the Aug. 23 press conference held by the government panel following the meeting in the Malaysian capital. - Amita O. Legaspi/KBK, GMA News
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