Maguindanao offers scholarships to BIFF children

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MAGUINDANAO: Following the granting of locally subsidized scholarships to children of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members, children of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) are given the chance to avail of free schooling under the enlarged grant of the provincial government, officials said Monday.

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Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu of Maguindanao said his Maguindanao Program on Educational Assistance and Community Development (MagPeace), which currently serves 4,254 scholars, has expanded to cover children of BIFF members.

Some 200 children of MILF men have enlisted for 2014-2015 scholarships, Mangudadatu said, with each scholar receiving P3,000 monthly.

He said the scholarship program, which he started with a few dozen scholars when he was mayor of Buluan town in 2006, has been “enhanced” to help mainstream reclusive residents of Maguindanao in the Mindanao peace agenda.

Educating the citizenry is an obligation in Islam, Magudadatu said, citing the first Qur’an verse revealed unto Prophet Mohammad that commanded him to “read, read, read . . . in the name of God.”

He said MagPEACE is addressing the illiteracy rate in Maguindanao, which the government claims to be the highest in the country.

Local military and police authorities have lauded the governor’s scholarship offer to Moro rebels, saying that “proper education” was imperative in the face of findings that many minors have been brainwashed in extremist beliefs and eventually recruited as “child combatants.”

In a recent news conference, the Army’s Sixth Infantry Division presented materials showing minor children wielding firearms and undergoing combat training. The materials were recovered from a BIFF camp captured in Shariff Saidona, Maguindanao, after the military’s offensives on the rebel group in January.

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