By Ali Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – An official of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) Monday alleged that some police officers and relatives of politicians claimed to be internally-displaced persons (IDPs) from Marawi City who were recipients of a P5-million fund that financed a 2018 Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
NCMF Spokesperson Dr. Dumapuno Alonto-Datu Ramos Jr. questioned the impropriety of the use of the funds, which came from the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), more so by persons posing an IDPs from the battle-scarred city.
What made the HUDCC’s hajj sponsorship more improper was the fact that the beneficiaries were actually policemen and relatives of politicians disguised as IDPs, according to Datu Ramos.
“Five million pesos was released by HUDCC to NCMF in 2018 as payment for hajj mutawif (billeting and transport expenses) of PNP personnel and relatives of local politicians posing as IDPs,” he said. He did not elaborate, or name the fake IDPs who were able to go on the 2018 pilgrim.
Datu Ramos’ revelation gave credence to a Commission on Audit (COA) report, requiring HUDCC to return the P5 million it released for the Hajj pilgrims last year due to its irregularity.
In its audit report on HUDCC expenditures for 2018, COA said the funding of Marawi IDPs’ hajj was “unauthorized”” because such sponsorship amounting to P5-million “was not among the authorized expenses in the Memorandum of Agreement by the Office of the President and the HUDCC” forged on May 30, 2018.
HUDCC explained that the purpose of its P5-M fund transfer “was for social healing of the victims of Marawi siege.”
Datu Ramos, who also assumed office as NCMF external affairs director IV in April 2018, said the controversy about the HUDCC hajj sponsorship for IDPs in 2018 should be resolved immediately by higher authorities like the Office of the President (OP), as this will also decide the fate of 32 “genuine” evacuees, duly identified and selected via raffle last March, who have been picked to go on this year’s pilgrimage to Makkah.
The flights of Filipino hajj goers will commence sometime between July and August this year.
Unless the issue is solved, “it would be unfair for those (32) IDPs who were picked for the free hajj” during the face-to-face dialog between HUDCC and Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) chairman del Rosario and thousands of IDPs held in Marawi City on March 19 and 20, Datu Ramos said.