Hataman appeals for budget support to NCMF’s anti-extremism programs

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    DEPUTY Speaker Mujiv Hataman (Basilan) yesterday appealed to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and his colleagues in the 18th Congress to provide funding for five programs lined up by the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) aimed at addressing violent extremism in Mindanao.

    In a statement, Hataman lamented the insufficient financial support for the NCMF program under the proposed 2019 budget, saying many of the agency’s key programs had to be shelved.

    “The NCMF was established in 2010 to look after the welfare of Muslim communities throughout the country. A lot of its important programs waited in vain for appropriations in this year’s budget. I appeal to my colleagues in Congress to help the commission perform its lawful mandate,” Hataman said.

    The former regional governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said the NCMF’s centerpiece advocacy is the project on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE), which needs an allocation of P192 million for implementation.

    PCVE is a multi-level and multi-sectoral intervention action plan to strengthen peace-building efforts in Mindanao by addressing issues including marginalization, unemployment and ideological and cultural factors that attract young people to extremist groups.

    “This is one program that we cannot put off any longer if we are to win against terrorism violent extremism. But without sufficient funds, the NCMF cannot do anything to stop elements who want to sow fear among our people,” the lawmaker said.

    Budget for PCVE was approved by the Senate in 2018 for inclusion in this year’s budget but was not carried out by the bicameral conference committee.

    Educators and Mindanao leaders cited the need for the program to prevent a repeat of the Marawi Siege two years ago which is seen as a result of the radicalization of susceptible young people.

    The four other NCMF programs that it is hoping to get funding for next year are the Traditional Madrasah Development Program (P64.44 million), the Shari’ah Training (P4.2 million), Domestic Halal Development (P55.9 million) and the operations of 11 NCMF Regional Offices (P21.6 million).

    For the Traditional Madrasah Development Program, the former ARMM governor noted that less than a million pesos was set aside under the National Expenditure Program or NEP.

    “With over 2,000 Muslim schools or madrasahs in the country, how far will P600,000 have to stretch? Education remains the best instrument to neutralize the reach of terrorism and violent extremism. NCMF is only asking for little enough for such an important program,” Hataman said.

    The NCMF has been transferred under the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) from the Office of the President as of last year.

    During the DILG’s budget briefing in the House of Representatives, Hataman voiced his concern on the lack of funds for the NCMF.