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Duterte wants higher budget for Muslim pilgrimage —Andanar

Amid the controversy over the use of Marawi rehabilitation fund for Hajj, President Rodrigo Duterte wants a budget increase that would enable more Filipino Muslims to travel to Saudi Arabia for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, according to Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.

"...The budget, I believe, will be increased dahil naniniwala si Presidente na ang isang Muslim ...would rather be able to go to Mecca para doon sa Hajj kaysa magkaroon ng... Isa o dalawang mansion. That is nothing compared to being able to go to Mecca para sa isang pilgrimage," Andanar said in an interview over Cabinet Report sa Teleradyo.

"So kaya sabi niya (Duterte), dahil ito ay sub-culture ng bawat Pilipino—bawat Pilipinong Muslim, binibigyan ng halaga kaya i-increase-an iyong budget para mas maraming mga kapatid na Muslim ang mapapadala sa susunod na taon," he added.

Andanar was referring to a pronouncement made by the President during the 2019 Eid’l Fitr Celebration in Davao City on Thursday, during which he appealed to the Commission on Audit (COA) to reconsider its findings against the diversion of P5-million worth of rehabilitation funds to send some displaced Muslims of Marawi to the Hajj last year.  

The President stressed that the chance to take part in the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia worths more to a Muslim than owning several mansions. 

“I am asking COA to reconsider. Ano ba naman yang P5 million?” he said. "Actually that five million is worth billions in terms of your kind, I said generosity, to finance the poor people na Muslim para makapag-Hajj." 

The President had also admitted that he had sent Muslims to Mecca when he was mayor of Davao City.

"Magpunta lang ‘yan doon sa Mecca to fulfill a religious mandate. After that mag-uwi na man ‘yan. Para sa kanila ‘pag natapos ang Mecca, wala na silang problema. Mamatay man sila bukas," he said.

According to Andanar on Friday, Duterte intends to have the funds for the pilgrimage trips allocated by batch based on the different Muslim tribes.

"So ang batch will be based on the tribes that are going there… Halimbawa mayroon kang Maranao, mayroon kang Tausug na mapapadala doon," he said.

The Hajj, which is one of the pillars of Islam, is the largest gathering of Muslims in the world.

Muslims are encouraged to join the Hajj at least once in their lifetime by traveling to Mecca, the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad. —Margaret Claire Layug/LDF, GMA News