Bishops hit President Aquino over doles to rebels
Several Catholic bishops on Friday expressed dismay at the revelation that the Aquino administration gave millions of pesos in dole-outs to the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Alex Boncayao Brigade (ABB), a breakaway communist hit squad.
In separate interviews over the Church-run Radyo Veritas, Bishop Leonardo Medroso of Tagbilaran, Ilagan Bishop Elenito Galido and Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Colin Bagaforo said there could be no justification for the dole-outs to insurgents.
Like arming enemy
Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, who used to be a chaplain for the military, said he found the news about the dole-outs “very distressing.”
They will not bring peace to the country, he said.
“It will mean more dead soldiers, widows and orphans. It is paying them to destroy our country. It’s like arming the enemy. They might use to buy arms so that they can become stronger,” Arguelles said in an interview.
Funds for education and livelihood should be coursed through government agencies and nongoverment organizations that are not armed, Arguelles said.
“These should go straight to the poor to uplift them and not for destructive means,” he said.
“[The government] can give monetary help to these groups for development once they have already renounced armed resistance and clearly opted for peace. Isn’t the MILF an armed group?” Arguelles said.
He said soldiers have become demoralized because while there is a shortage of bullets and new uniforms, the government was giving millions of pesos to the ABB and MILF.
“They’re demoralized, especially the relatives of those who were killed in action, the widows and the orphans. The government is helping the enemy,” he said.
Medroso said the government and the rebel groups should be transparent and make public the details of their peace talks and why money was involved.
“These are taxpayers’ funds. Even if we’re not immediately told about the details of the peace talks for security reasons, when it comes to the financial aspect and programs, these should be made public. Blood and sweat were poured in paying taxes and the funds were just given like that,” Medroso said.
Galido said he believes dole-outs would not advance the peace process. “What is the intention, why give that money to rebels? If you give money in order to buy peace, I think it will not benefit both parties,” he said.
Bagaforo said the solicitation of such dole-outs could be tantamount to “extortion” while the government’s acquiescence can be described as “bribery.”
“These groups are enemies of the state. It’s almost like lawless elements or criminals extorting from businessmen or the government, that if they won’t give money, they would be bothered, if they give, they won’t. This is not good,” Bagaforo said.
Several dioceses in Mindanao will commemorate the “Mindanao Week of Peace” from Nov. 24 to Dec. 1 to promote unity and friendship among the various peoples of the island.
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