The government, not the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), should explain why it has given multi-million peso funding to a leadership and management institute for Muslims, a bishop said yesterday. “Our only concern is that there needs to be transparency and an explanation why the money was given by the government," Bishop Leonardo Medroso of Tagbilaran said in an interview with Radio Veritas yesterday. He said the public must be told what their tax money is being used for, so “it is not necessary for the MILF to explain. The government should,’’ Bishop Medroso said. MILF, the largest armed Islamic group in the country, was founded in the 1970s to establish an Islamic state in areas they claim as their ancestral domain. Over the past 15 years, it has been holding on-off peace negotiations with the government. Last month, politicians, bishops and critics questioned funding for the Bangsamoro (Filipino Muslim nation) Leadership and Management Institute that amounted to around five million pesos (US$117,000). MILF peace panel secretariat head Jun Mantawil in an article posted on the rebel’s website
said his panel is considering inviting several bishops to a dialogue over comments made about the funding. In the article he named three bishops -- Medroso, Bagaforo and Elenito Galido of Iligan -- who have been quoted by the media as saying the government's "dole-outs" to the institute are unjustified. “We will reach out to them [the bishops] first through a mutually acceptable go-in-between ... We have a very reliable line of communication with the Catholic Church,” Mantawil said. The article also cited quotes attributed to Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa, former military ordinariate head, saying that the "dole-outs" will mean "more dead soldiers, widows and orphans." Mantawil lamented the “divisive” statements from Church leaders who should instead be promoting peace. These contribute to hatred and animosity in society, he noted. Speaking separately on Radio Veritas, Auxiliary Bishop Jose Collin Bagaforo echoed Bishop Medroso's views on the funding. He said it is government's duty to exercise transparency when releasing taxpayers’ money to Muslims or communist rebels.