October 5, 2012 News: The chair of a militant non-government Moro youth organization has commended Congressman Rufus Rodriguez of the Second District of Cagayan de Oro City for seeking more scholarship grants for poor and deserving Moro students in Mindanao.
Arsad Solaiman, chairman of the Youth for Genuine Bangsamoro Empowerment (YGBE), told Luwaran that Rodriguez is one of the few non-Moro political leaders whose heart is clinched of anti-Moro, anti-Muslim and anti-Islam biases and prejudices.
Solaiman, who rarely makes good adjectives for politicians, has made exception to the Cagayan de Oro congressman, saying he is a rare breed whose good upbringing merits mentioning.
Rodriguez, who was once a close friend of former ARMM Governor Zacaria Candao, has sent a request to President Benigno Aquino for an additional budget for the Affirmative Muslim Education Fund (AMEF).
Rodriguez said the additional fund of P500 million will be added to the budget of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) for 2013, which will be used to establish and implement the said program for underprivileged yet deserving students in Mindanao.
In an interview with the Sunstar, Rodriguez said the AMEF could be patterned after the Pensionado Act of 1903 (Act 854) passed on August 1903 by Governor General William Howard Taft’s government through the Philippine Commission.
Under this act, qualified Filipino students are allowed to study in the United States, with funds provided.
“The idea of the program was to educate the students on the U.S. Government system,” Rodriguez said.
He added that when they return to the Philippines, they would administer the government in the same fashion and allowed to occupy important positions in the government.
Pensionados were required to work for the government in the Philippines for the same length of time that they studied.
According to Rodriguez, Muslim brothers and sisters in Mindanao have suffered generations of inherited disadvantages.
“The situation in the island has not improved and what it needs now are leaders who can break the mold and bring progress to Mindanao,” he added.
Rodriguez emphasized that one way to do it is to give the Muslim youth in Mindanao the opportunities to be educated in good universities and colleges either in the Philippines or abroad by shouldering their tuition and other fees such as board and lodging, plane fares and monthly stipend.
In return, they will serve the government after they graduated at the rate of two years of service per year of subsidized studies.
In his letter to Aquino, Rodriguez said through this, the government could develop Muslim leaders with integrity, honesty and academic knowledge to be able to implement changes and improvements in Muslim Mindanao.
Rodriguez is reportedly willing to slice P2 million from his fund to assist the project.