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P5 M gov’t fund for future Bangsamoro leaders, not MILF guns

Manila, Oct. 26 – Dismissing news reports that President Benigno Aquino III gave P5 million to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that they used to buy guns and ammunition, as alleged by a malicious text message, Government of the Philippines (GPH) panel chair Marvic Leonen clarified that the fund was intended to jumpstart the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI).

“The P5 million is a commitment made by the previous administration. It is intended to fast-track the establishment of the institute,” Leonen explained.

The BLMI is a training center for Bangsamoro leaders and managers who will be serving their communities in the future.

Leonen said that he handed the P5-million check to MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ibrahim during the parties’ last round of formal exploratory talks on August 22-23 in Kuala Lumpur. This was announced during the August 23 press conference held by the government panel following the meeting in the Malaysian capital.

He related that the establishment of BLMI was discussed during negotiations at the 10th Formal Exploratory Talks in February, 2006. It was finalized and formally agreed upon during the 14th formal exploratory talks held on November 14-15, 2007, with funding commitment from the Philippine Government to jumpstart the institute's operations.

It was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that enabled it to receive assistance from donor institutions such as the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

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.

Leonen added that President Aquino approved the appropriation for the BLMI during the consultation with the panel early this year. “During his one-on-one meeting with MILF chair Murad in Tokyo last August 5, the President again expressed his support to the BLMI. He then instructed the peace panel to hand the check to the Moro group.”

The panel chair said 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.”

In his statement on Monday, Aquino stressed that some of those who have appealed for an all-out war against the MILF “may come from those who do not have a full awareness of all the factors at play.”

Calls for an all-out war were made by various sectors when 19 soldiers were killed in a bloody clash in Basilan last week.

“However, my decisions cannot be borne out of ignorance. They have to be based on available facts,” Aquino said of his pronouncement.

“It is so easy, out of frustration, to close the door on negotiations at this time. If we go down this path, more innocent civilians will be put in harm’s way. The difficult peace process cannot be enhanced by shedding more blood and generating more ill will.”

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