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Palace: Grants to insurgents a good thing

Malacañang on Saturday defended the multimillion-peso grants the government has been giving insurgent groups to further the peace process, particularly breakaway factions of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Secretary Edwin Lacierda, President Benigno Aquino III’s spokesperson, said the government was taking full responsibility for the releases even if the grants were in compliance with agreements entered into with the insurgents during past administrations.

Lacierda made the statement after several bishops expressed their disapproval of what they described as government doles to the insurgent groups.

Former military chaplain Lipa Bishop Ramon Arguelles said the grants won’t help the peace process as the funds might even be used to arm the rebels and mean more “dead soldiers, widows and orphans.”

Gov’t is sincere

In an interview over state radio dzRB, Lacierda said: “How will that not affect positively the peace process or the peace talks with the rebels? Isn’t this proof that the government is sincere in making sure that their lives are enhanced, are improved so they would be able to become constructive members of society once more?”

“If you look at the program, Pamana is an assistance to our countrymen who want to return to their communities and to the fold of the law,” he said.

The bishops’ remarks came in the wake of the government’s P31-million allocation for communities in Negros Oriental and Panay Island and the P5-million fund for the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute.

Pamana is the program that provides livelihood assistance to communities in furtherance of the peace process.

Lacierda said that contrary to Arguelles’ statement, even a military general in the person of 3rd Infantry Division chief Major General Emmanuel Bautista agreed with the program.

“If there’s no incentive for them to return (to the mainstream of society), isn’t it possible that they will go back to the mountains?” Lacierda said.

“That’s why we are providing them programs. This is not bribery. This is assistance to them. We want to give them programs so that they’ll be integrated back to the community where they should be to be with their families,” he said.

Lacierda also addressed the criticism that the administration was passing the buck for the brickbats it received following the fund releases.

Full responsibility

He said the administration found the programs worth pursuing even if the agreements with the groups concerned were forged during past administrations.

“We are not shirking from that responsibility, we take full responsibility,” Lacierda said.

“Former Secretary [Benjamin] Diokno has said we can always cancel them. Correct, that’s true. We are reviewing all the contracts by the previous administrations and, based on the recommendation, these are worth pursuing,” he said.

“If they are worth pursuing, why cancel them? We are taking full responsibility for this P5 million and the P31 million that we are going to provide for livelihood programs for rebel returnees. We’re not blaming the previous administrations. All we are saying is we are outlining the history, the timeline of these and these are all borne out by documents,” Lacierda said.

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