Have money, will behead

Now that, arguably, sounds as morbid as one can get. But what do we make of that November 11 news item by The Australian entitled “AusAid cash went to Marawi terrorist”?

How does that sound?

According to the report, Canberra paid some $12.7 million to one of the Maute brothers, a certain Mohammadkhayam, for a purported series of educational activities that began in 2012. The program, which ended this year, was called the Basic Edu­cation Assistance for Muslim Mindanao.

The Maute family may have been just another grant recipient in 2012. But by 2015, its members had sworn their loyalty to the Islamic State.

How The Australian got wind of this information, to say nothing yet of its veracity, is yet unclear. But in December 2, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said to media that “this shows that we really need to implement an anti-money laundering act because ang nangyari dito (what happened here), this is a form of laundering na (wherein) aid money (was) used for terrorism.”

To be sure, aid-giving is par for the course for the Western world, and Australia is no exception. Just four months ago, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said $20 million in aid was forthcoming for the battle-scarred residents in Marawi City.

Globally, in 2014 alone, foreign donors shelled out some $135 billion, an amount that, astonishingly, was even 16 percent shy of the previous year’s.

With all that moolah, it would be folly to assume none of that ends up in the wrong hands.

It ended up in the hands of the communists during the heyday of the dictatorship—or at least that’s what the Marcos military believed then (and activists called “military intelligence” a contradiction in terms). The Reds may not have been called terrorists at the time. But guess what they’re officially labeled today.

And even if it didn’t get squirrelled into the jungle hideouts of the state’s enemies, aid itself has long been challenged as a consistently viable approach to development.

Take it from noted researcher David Sogge In his review of two books on the failure of aid in Africa:

“Lancaster and Edwards agree that aid has rarely helped and sometimes damaged the capacity of Africans to govern their own affairs. Both note that aid has propped up autocratic, winner-take-all, incompetent governments and a violent opposition movement or two.”

Sogge was referring to Carol Lancaster, author of “Aid to Africa: So Much to Do, So Little Done;” and Michael Edwards, who authored “Future Positive: International Co-operation in the 21st Century.”

So, corollary to all of this, was Rodrigo Duterte right in shutting the door to the 250 million euro aid package from the European Union? Only time will tell.

But the President wasn’t born yesterday, and was never a pushover on the matter of non-government organisations, popular protest, and the insurgency, Davao, his hometown, having been the country’s premier “laboratory” for the C.I.A.’s low-intensity conflict.

History, it seems, does have a way of repeating itself.