BANGSAMORO SPEAKS: By law, our jurisdiction over Marawi Rehab is limited but we cannot simply do nothing for those displaced and affected

(Remarks of MP Anna Tarhata Basman on the Submission of the Report of the Special Committee on Marawi at the session of the Bangsamoro Parliament on 27 August 2020. MP Basman is Vice Chair of the Special Committee)

(Istiadha)
(Basmalah)
(Alhamdulillah)
(Salawat)
(Musa’s dua)

Amma baad…Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh.

Mister Speaker,  Members  of the Parliament,  ladies  and  gentlemen,  our  internally displaced sisters and brothers who are watching our proceedings today—

Good afternoon.

I have the honor to present to this august body the report of the Special Committee on Marawi, the  result  of public  hearings held  in  Marawi  City  and  here  in  Cotabato, public consultations across  Lanao  del  Sur,  Lanao  del  Norte,  as  well  as  in  Metro  Manila,  field visits,  and  examination  of vital documents.  This  summarizes all  of  the  national,  local, regional, and non-governmental interventions initiated in the aftermath of the Marawi siege, articulates the sentiments and crucial concerns raised by the internally displaced, and outlines our recommendations, as a Committee, to the Bangsamoro Government as well as other government instrumentalities to address them.

MP Anna Tarhata Basman presents the report of the Special Committee on Marawi to the interim Bangsamoro Parliament on Thursday, 27 August 2020. Photo courtesy of the SCM

We all remember what happened in Marawi on May 23, 2017. We are also already aware that even after  the  city  was  declared  liberated,  the  crisis  continued. By  June  this  year, three years later, thousands are still displaced. Rehabilitation has just begun, but the pace of reconstruction has remained slow. The difficulties faced by displaced Mëranaws—in their daily lives and their livelihoods, in dealing with the past and looking forward to the future—are compounded by the outbreak of COVID-19.

It is because of this context that the Special Committee on Marawi, or SCM, now finds it even more urgent that we submit our report to this body, in the hopes that it would hear the voice of our people, and act quickly on their behalf.

Our colleagues may remember that the SCM was created after multiple Members of the Parliament  filed  resolutions  to  look  into  the  status  of  the  Marawi  response.  This  is in recognition  of  the  plight  of  those  displaced  and  affected  by  the  Marawi  Siege,  and  in keeping with the mandate of the BTA to supplement the National Government’s efforts on Marawi Rehab, as provided in the BOL. We follow the lead of the National Government; we understand that they are calling the shots. We know that by law, our jurisdiction over Marawi Rehab is limited; but we also know that we cannot simply do nothing for those displaced and affected.

As  a  review,  the  SCM  was  created  in  September  2019,  and was duly  constituted  the following month in October. It was tasked to “look into the status of the Marawi recovery, reconstruction, and rehabilitation efforts.” From the beginning, it was clear to us that our work will complement the efforts of the Task Force Bangon Marawi—and to do that, we understood that we needed accurate and complete information on the status of Marawi and its residents. That is what we undertook to collate in the months of labor of the SCM, interrupted  only  by  the  restrictions  on  mobility  and  the  impossibility  of  holding gatherings  in  light  of  the  pandemic. In  total,  we  were  able  to  conduct six exhaustively deliberative committee meetings, three informative public hearings which were spread out over seven days, and numerous public consultations.We held field visits. We talked to experts. These, along with the data and evidence we gathered, form the basis of the committee report we present today.

Let me, at the outset, apologize to our colleagues, Mister Speaker, for we will not be able to  cover  this  report  comprehensively in  this  remarks. The report  is  over  one  hundred pages, so we deem it best to limit the discussion to its key highlights.

We must also make clear that this document is not meant to encompass all that needs to be said and all that had been done in relation to Marawi. This is a long document—but considering the multitude and gravity of the issues faced by our people, and considering the fact that even as we speak here more concerns are developing and emerging, even a hundred pages or double that will not be enough. We only have what was presented and submitted to us, and what was the result of the collective wisdom of the Committee.

But even so, we hope to do right by the people of Marawi by providing them a stronger platform for their grievances and lending whatever machinery we have as a Parliament and as an autonomous government to address their urgent and perennial concerns.

We also  apologize  to  our  IDPs  for  the  delay.  We  had  planned  to  submit  this  report  in March or April at the latest, but our timetable was delayed by the outbreak of COVID. But we are here now, and we are passing on what you have told us. The SCM carries your voices with us, and today we will make sure you will be heard.

And in these remarks and in this report, we hope we do justice to our people by putting the spotlight on the matters and issues they raised during our interactions. We highlight here  the  most  noteworthy  and  urgent  ones  according  to  the  people  of  Marawi:  issues involving  land,  property  rights,  and  shelters,  including  concerns  regarding property ownership,  the  military  reservation,  clearing  and  demolition,  taxes,  housing,  and temporary shelters; core necessities, including utilities, livelihood, education, and health; public works; and other issues, including data issues, questions with regard to inclusion, scope,  and  priority,  transparency,  transitional  justice,  inquiries  on  the  handling  of  the war, and security.

Issues

Land, Property Rights, and Shelters 

One of the most crucial cluster of issues we encountered are concerns overland, property, rights, and shelters. As it is, land has been a complicated issue for the Marawi residents even  before  the  siege. Aside  from  competing  ownerships,  we  have overlapping  claims, encroachment,  and  reliance  on  traditional  institutions  of  property  ownership and possession. This  has been pointed  as  one  of  the causes of  delay  in the rehabilitation efforts.

This  problem  cannot  be  discussed  without  mentioning  the concerns raised regarding clearing and demolition. Some of those who consented to demolition were worried to see that the contractors left no visible markers or physical boundaries on their land. They wanted to do this themselves, but the way Kambisita was designed (i.e. the period within which  IDPs  from  the  most  affected  area  (MAA)  were  allowed  to  briefly  visit  their properties but no repair, construction, or fencing was permitted), prevented them from doing so. Now all they are holding on to is the assurance of the local government that the exact  boundaries  will  be  followed  since  these  are  in  the  registered  titles.  But  that’s  a problem because that would only work if you are a homeowner with a registered title and with no overlapping claims.

In relation to this, there also appears to be a problem with respect the proceeds of the sale of the debris from the MAA. Our people were told that these were consolidated into a Trust Fund and will go to the homeowners. But at the time this issue was brought to the attention of the Committee, no guidelines on the distribution has been released.

Our  people  are  also  very  concerned  with  the coverage of  the  Camp  Ranao  military reservation,  as  well  as the  construction  of what  they  were  told  is  only  an  “outpost”  in Kapantaran, which is in the Most Affected Area. There are fears that more residents will be displaced in the future, and that even a supposed “outpost” may stir resentment and disturb the long-term stability of the city.

Real property tax is a problem. A tax amnesty was implemented in 2018, and in 2019, the usual discounts and installment schemes were offered. Despite these concessions, some of the IDPs are still unable to pay. Rehabilitation has barely started, they are still unable to return and profit from their lands, and yet they are being asked to pay taxes for these. Still, we recognize that for the Marawi LGU, it is a delicate balancing act between raising the revenues required of them by law and accommodating the realities of the IDPs.

Social housing and private residential housing also pose problems for our IDPs. Many of those we talked to have serious concerns regarding the permanent shelters, which are for the most part located far from the city center. This is a usual problem in large-scale housing  projects,  but  our  IDPs  are  asking  now:  will  moving  to  shelters  end  up  costing more, since their livelihood and place of employment is in Marawi’s center? How are their children   going   to   go   to   their   preferred   schools   and  colleges,   given   expensive transportation costs?

Based on our discussions, it is also unclear who will be allowed to avail of the permanent shelters, how they can finance these, and whether availing of a permanent shelter means they will have to give up their properties in the city center. This becomes  important  questions  especially  since  the  TFBM  declared  prioritization  in  the availment  for  those  whose  properties  are  located  in  reclaimed  areas  and  where government infrastructure will be built. There has to be more information on what sort of housing assistance IDPs can expect, and what the plan is now for private housing and building structures.

And finally under this cluster, we cannot forget that temporary shelters have their share of  problems. IDPs are  grateful for  this  assistance,  but their  experience  is  that  the temporary housing units are too small for the average Mëranaw family. We hear of the need to sleep in shifts, or outside the unit, or even asking neighbors and relatives to allow other  members  to  sleep  in  their  homes  especially  during  inclement  weathers. The cramped spaces have also forced the Mëranaws to disregard their religious and cultural norms, piercing through their sense of maratabat and self-esteem as a society.

Other Core Necessities

Lacking  in  the shelters,  and  now  also  in  the  sectors  in  the  MAA  where  residents  are allowed  to  return gradually, are  the  core  necessities for  comfortable,  or  even  just dignified, living. They talk of inadequacy of water supply. There is a problem with solid waste management. Electricity is an issue. Livelihood assistance and health services are likewise raised.

Utilities

There is a severe shortage of water–potable or otherwise –in the temporary shelters, and  the  situation  in  the  MAA  is likewise dire.  This  has  contributed  to  sanitation  and hygiene problems in the shelters, especially with the inadequacy of sanitation and waste management systems. Imagine, then, the impact of COVID in such a setting—IDPs don’t even have enough water for what the authorities require of basic health protocols.

Electrification has also not been completed in some temporary shelters.

From our findings and our interactions with the IDPs and experts, Mister Speaker, we can get a picture of what daily life is like for those displaced by the Marawi Siege. You wake up in a shelter that is most likely too small for your family; where you might not even have access to electricity, much less a decent water supply. You are not sure when you may be able to return to your home in the city center. In fact, you are not even sure if you will be able to return at all—you may not have the land title, or you may be displaced yet again by new public constructions, or someone else may have claimed your land already.

And it’s not just the daily lives of our IDPs that are suffering. Their livelihood, education, and health are in peril too.

Livelihood

Three  national  agencies  are  involved  in  providing  livelihood  assistance  to  IDPs,  along with the regional government, LGUs, and different NGOs. Despite this, not all are reached by interventions of this kind and some IDPs decry the fairness of the process of selection. Some received assistance from all three agencies, while some received from only one, and others still received none at all. This inequity in the livelihood support is causing tensions within our communities.

We were also informed that many IDPs received similar livelihood starter kits to produce or market similar products. While such assistance is much-needed, the local market has been saturated, again causing tensions and prolonging economic recovery even further. The strategy may be to provide as many micro-to small-scale livelihood interventions to as many IDPs as possible, but the problem is the role of former big-time traders, or those who can help make our local economy recover faster, are ignored.

Complaints  about  overpricing,  skill-intervention  mismatch,  and  the  quality  of  the equipment distributed have also been raised.

Education

Moving on to education, while the Department of Education has understandably focused on the 20 public schools destroyed or affected by the siege, not much assistance has been given to the many private schools, madaris, and other educational institutions in the MAA so  that  they  have  a  chance  at  repairs  or  reconstruction  and,  therefore,  resumption  of operations.

Health

IDPs also reported problems with health services. Similar to education, distance is a big constraint in access. Regular medical missions are not enough for the IDPs, and they are calling  for  medical  clinics in  every site,  along  with  affordable  medicines. Given  the problems  with  the  water  supply,  inadequate  hygiene  and  sanitation  systems,  lack  of health services, cramped living conditions, and the COVID outbreak, what we have here is a perfect storm waiting to happen.

Other Issues

What we have discussed thus far are issues that affect the daily realities of the IDPs. But there are concerns that permeate the entire situation that the Committee, and us here in the Parliament, also cannot ignore.

Completeness of the List of Beneficiaries

Data is a big problem in the Marawi rehabilitation. Both the Kathanor and DAFAC systems–while laudable attempts at data basing –are incomplete, something that is not denied by the authorities that implemented them. The problem is that these lists are the bases for the inclusion in the intervention of the national government agencies. Exclusion in the list spells exclusion in the aid that is due every IDP.

Data on land possession and ownership is also problematic. As intimated earlier, strict adherence to formal documentation alone –land titles, tax declarations, deeds of sale or other forms of transfer –is not reflective of the reality of the complexity of the property arrangements  within  the  Mëranaw  society.  This  has  caused  anxiety or  even  tension to those who have been in possession of their lands for generations, prior to being displaced by the siege, but whose claims are not evidenced by documents recognized by authorities.

Inclusion, Scope, Priority

From  what  we  have  seen,  there  also  appears to  be  questions  regarding  the  inclusion, scope, and prioritization for those affected by the Marawi Siege. There is the sentiment that non-Mëranaw hostages who survived or those who are affiliated with the ones who perished  in the  2017  siege  received  more urgent  assistance  from  the  government compared to the IDPs.

Transparency

Transparency is another critical issue. IDPs are not provided the clarity that they demand as to the assistance that they are entitled to, the processes, timelines, and targets when it comes to rehabilitation, and the policies that relate to their return to their properties in the MAA including whether, for some of them, its impossibility is a foregone conclusion. So much more can be done to inform and update the IDPs, especially to dispel perceptions of mismanagement and suspicions of corruption.

Inclusive Participation

Related to our people’s call for transparency is their clamor for inclusive participation. For  instance,  the mujahideen should  be  recognized  as  important  partners  not  just  in rehab efforts, but in long-term development and stability of the city.

Still, an even bigger problem that was revealed to us in our public hearings is that wide acceptance of the Bangon Marawi plans eems to be absent —indicative, perhaps, of this lack  of  ownership  by  the  IDPs  is  the  feeling  that inclusive  participation  even  from  the stage of its conception fell short.

Transitional Justice and the Handling of the War

IDPs also highlighted the importance of transitional justice in the case of Marawi so that the allegations of looting, vandalism, and trespassing over private properties during the height of the siege–are not simply forgotten.

Many of those affected also have lingering questions regarding the handling of the war. Our people want to clarify what factors led to the siege–beyond the victim-blaming that has pervaded the earlier discourses, investigate violations committed by both sides, and have a full accounting of the dead and the missing.

Emerging Security Issues

All of these compounding problems lead to a Marawi that is exposed and vulnerable to emerging security issues. IDPs have reported renewed recruitment, which is likely driven by frustration over the pace of rehabilitation. There has also been a reported spike in illegal drug transactions. While never an excuse, perhaps the lack of adequate socio-economic opportunities has forced some to resort to selling drugs.

Recommendations

Given these, Mister Speaker, dear colleagues, how does the Committee propose that we move Marawi Rehabilitation forward? We looked at this question on two levels: first with respect  to  the  Bangsamoro  Government,  and  second,  within  the  overall  scheme  of the rehabilitation efforts.

We focus first on the recommendations to the Bangsamoro Government. Again, we  know that we do not have full jurisdiction over this. We are indeed riddled with limitations and restrictions when it comes to Marawi Rehab. But—and I know I speak for my  colleagues as well—that does not mean that we will adopt a wait-and-see attitude especially since these  are  our  people  that  are  continuing  to  suffer. This  is  our  constituency.  This  is happening not just in our backyard, but right in our home. And as we know that most matters crucial to the rehabilitation are out of the hands of the Bangsamoro Government, we also devote a portion of the report to bring to the attention of proper authorities what the people of Marawi expect from them.

The  Bangsamoro  Government  might  not  have  a  full  hand  over  matters  crucial  to  the rehabilitation, but what it does have is the 500-million-peso Marawi Rehabilitation Fund from the BAA. This amount can be used for the necessary actions we deem immediate. We  can  also  use  this  to begin  those  programs  classified  for  the  immediate-to-medium term.  We  also  recommend  that  other  fund  sources  be  tapped,  particularly the  Special Development  Fund, as  well  as  the  Appropriations  for  succeeding  years, for the  more enduring interventions for Marawi.

What do our people need from the Bangsamoro Government?

We need immediate organizational interventions.

We need a dedicated office for the BTA-led Marawi Rehabilitation and Recovery, either through a Coordinating Board composed of the ministries of the Executive, or a Program Management Office. Either option have their strengths and weaknesses. We propose that for this year, we start with a PMO which will facilitate and speed-up the processes for our interventions.

Second,  we  need  to  address  the  data  gaps.  Data  gaps  almost  always  turn  to  service delivery  gaps.  We  need  a  centralized,  updated,  and  comprehensive  database  on household  profiles,  assistance  received,  and  property  ownership  of  IDPs. We  do  not suggest  reinventing  the  wheel.  Working  with  the  TFBM  and  the  LRA  in  case  of  land administration is the optimal track for the Bangsamoro Government so that the existing data they have are enhanced.

We need immediate and direct assistance for the IDPs.

Our  people  need  better  access  to  assistance that  are  already  offered  by  government agencies, especially for IDPs residing outside Marawi City. Home-based IDPs and those who stay in community-managed evacuation sites in other LGUs, in particular, are being overlooked. They face significant barriers in accessing assistance. Perhaps collaborative partnerships with host communities and LGUs will help ease this problem.

We also need to ensure food security, and prioritize self-sufficiency.We can fill in the gaps by continuing food relief assistance to all IDPs, along with targeted assistance to certain segments in need. Food security should be at the forefront of the Marawi agenda.

These  are  the  absolute  priorities.  And  only  because  we  know  that  we  can  only  start talking about more enduring solutions to the plight of the IDPs if we are sure that their basic needs, especially when it comes to food, are met.

We need immediate and medium-term interventions.

This next set of recommendations are classified as such not because of lack of urgency, as they are in fact urgent as well, but because their operationalization is, understandably, going to take longer.

In the immediate to medium-term, we need to hasten the establishment of better water distribution mechanisms as well as construction of sanitation and hygiene facilities. We do  this  either  through  provision  of  supplementary  water  delivery  tank  trucks  or installation of more durable water extraction systems such as deep wells. The sad state of water supply for our IDPs –both in the shelters and in the few barangays in the MAA –is  a  preventable  health  crisis  waiting  to  happen.  If  the  Bangsamoro  Government  is  to leave an indelible mark not just in the IDPs but the entire city of Marawi, water is our key.

Likewise,  we  need  to  improve  our  people’s  access  to  electricity which we  can  do  by distributing  solar  powered  battery  source  or  lights,  and  in  the  long-term,  investing  in improving the power distribution infrastructure of LASURECO.

We need to prioritize their business and livelihood–one which recognizes the nuance in the levels  of  competencies  and  skills  of  the  naturally  entrepreneurial  Mëranaws  and tailor  fits  interventions  according  to  these  factors. We  do  this  by  providing  different scales  of  capital  and  transitional  support.  Capital  can  be  made  available  through innovative  systems  particularly  those  incorporating  the  principles  of  Islamic  finance –Islamic microfinance that employs qard hassanor murabahah for the micro-and small-businesses,  and murabahah, mudharabah, musharakah,  and  their  permutations  as financial products accessible to others.

We need to continue delivering education services to our learners that not just focuses on  public  schools  but  one  that  does  not  forget  private  educational  institutions  which make up the majority of the education providers in the city. The Bangsamoro Government can,  for  example,  explore  the  possibility  of  establishing  a School  Rehabilitation  Trust Fund,  perhaps  financed  by  donors  through waqf,  upon  which  private  educational institutions can dip for the repair or reconstruction needs of their infrastructure.

We  need  to  continue  providing  health  services. Mobile  clinics  that  likewise  dispense medicine for free or at a subsidy in the shelters and in the opened-up sectors in the MAA can be provided by the Bangsamoro Government.

We  need  to  assist  homeowners  in  identifying  property  boundaries. Working  with  the TFBM, NHA, LRA, and the local government of Marawi City, the Bangsamoro Government can  provide  technical  experts –i.e.  geodetic  engineers –who  can  assist  the  property owners in translating the coordinates in their titles into actual boundary demarcations. Without  this  form  of  aid –which  may  expand  to  subsidizing  the  fencing  needs –community  tension  brought  about  by  conflictingproperty delineations  may  arise  or worsen.

We also need medium-to long-term interventions.

Our people need us to support permanent housing development. We present two options for the Bangsamoro Government –greenfield site housing development (or mass housing in  less  dense  areas,  which  will  likely  be  far  from  the  city  center)  or  brownfield  site housing development (or development within the MAA). For the former to work, it must be complemented by an integrated community development –with livelihood and other social infrastructures –and/or a public transport system that makes mobility to and from the city center easy. As for the latter, it can be done by neighborhoods or blocks, or at the individual  property-level. A  design  that  accommodates  sharers  and  renters  is  also recommended by the Committee. 

Finally, as much as the Bangsamoro Government is eager to solve the concerns of the  IDPs  on  its  own,  it  must  call  on  other  government  instrumentalities  if  a comprehensive  and  satisfactory  Marawi  rehabilitation  and  reconstruction  is  to happen.

Thus, we make this call to the National Government.

Our  people  need  your  help and  urgent  attention, too.  We  can  begin  with  improved transparency  in  the  rehabilitation  efforts  and  plans.  Three  years  on,  our  people’s  lives and futures are still uncertain. Surely, greater transparency would only make the TFBM’s job easier. Frequent and regular updates on the process will go a long way in this regard. Maximization of inexpensive communication channels –social media, radio, etc. –for this purpose is within our reach.

To our lawmakers, our people are also anxiously waiting on the immediate passage of the Compensation Law, which we have as a Parliament already urged the National Congress to pass in a resolution. We cannot assign financial value to the losses our people suffered, but  recognizing  those losses and  making  sincere  efforts  to  make  reparations  is  an important step towards healing and normalization.

Our  people are also  counting  on our  security  sector to  address  emerging  security concerns in the aftermath of the Marawi Siege. The many different public perceptions on the plans and pace of rehabilitation is fueling the emergence of new security threats, and our people need our assurance that these are not being ignored.

Finally,  we  come  down  to  what  our  people  have  been  saying  repeatedly.  In  so  many words, our people have always said – let them go home. There may be justifiable reasons for preventing this in certain areas. We recognize that the TFBM through the mechanism of Kathagombalay is  slowly  opening  up  the  MAA  starting  with  Barangays  Tolali  and Daguduban.

But as to the rest of the MAA, a full ban may not be necessary. For these areas, we echo their  call,  let  our  people  return. Experience in  other  jurisdictions  with similar circumstances show  that while  residing  is  not  yet  permitted,  other  expressions  of possession can already be exercised. The same can be said for our IDPs. Perhaps it is time to    allow    them    to    freely    visit    their    properties without    need    of    prior authorization/permission –let them clean, clear, fence, and do what they must in their properties –especially  those  who  have  already  shown  incontrovertible  proof  of ownership.  This  way,  recovery  and  reconstruction  of  private  properties  can  begin, particularly since this is not covered by the TFBM’s plans anyway. More importantly this process, falling short it may be of the call for the full return of the IDPs, will bring a sense of healing and moving forward, which our people have been waiting for, and unarguably deserve, for years.

As  I  said,  what  we’ve  done  is  give  a  brief  outline  of  our  full  report.  The  details  and explanations are better captured in the thick document.

Mister Speaker, dear colleagues: by submitting this report, a major part of the work of the Special Committee is officially done. But let this be clear: our vigilance as representatives of the people of Marawi is far from over. We will continue to work to make sure the people of Marawi get the rehabilitation efforts they need and deserve.

Mister Speaker, dear colleagues, I argue that this is precisely what the Bangsamoro was built  to  do.  The  autonomous  regional  government  is  well-poised  to  provide  direct, immediate, and tangible assistance to the people displaced and affected by the Marawi Siege. At the same time, it has unique, well-grounded, and evidence-based insights which can supplement the efforts of our National Government in achieving inclusive, genuine, and  comprehensive  rehabilitation and  recovery. We  offer  these  insights  through  this report in the spirit of sincere and earnest partnership and cooperation, and we hope they are taken well.

And, finally, to our people displaced and affected by the Marawi Siege: we thank you for sharing your stories with us, for inviting us into your homesand lives, for telling us the problems you face and the aspirations you hold. May this occasion be a cause of cautious optimism and hope. We have brought your voices to the Parliament. You have spoken. And we hope, along with all of you, that our leaders may hear.

Thank you very much.

READ: 
Report of the Special Committee on Marawi 

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