Anxiety deepens among bakwits with delay in passage of Marawi Compensation Bill

What used to be Padian (market) in Marawi City where ISIS-aligned militant leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute were killed is now a sprawling peace memorial park. Photo taken November 24, 2021 by FROILAN GALLARDO

MARAWI CITY (MindaNews / 01 December) — Tears welled from the eyes of Sittie Almairah Pangarungan Daud wetting the veil of the black hijab she was wearing.

“I might lose my chance in owning a house. My four children will not have a home,” Daud said at a sheltered rotunda in downtown Marawi.

Police dispersed Daud and her fellow bakwits or Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) — around 500 of them — when they staged a rally to push the Senate to pass the Marawi Compensation Bill.

“The police took our tarps and placards, and threatened the IDPs with detention,” Marawi Consensus Group leader Drieza Liningding said.

Not wanting trouble, Drieza said, the IDPs decided not to continue the rally, and went home peacefully.

The House of Representatives already passed its version of the measure, House Bill No. 9925, last Sept. 6, providing for compensation to owners for the loss of and damages to their properties during the five-months fighting in Marawi City in 2017.

The Senate version is still pending at the special committee on Marawi rehabilitation chaired by Senator Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa.

With the 2022 elections coming, Marawi leaders feared that the Senate might run out of time in passing the all-too-important compensation bill.

“We have no other option but to urge the Senate to pass the compensation bill. So many property owners are depending on the bill so they can start rebuilding their houses and buildings,” Sultan of Marawi Hamidullah Atar said.

Atar said they fear that many of the senators who are running in the 2022 elections would be distracted because they would be busy campaigning.

An Army soldier guards one of the new government buildings to rise in the ruined city of Marawi on Nov. 24, 2021. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

He said it would be convenient if President Rodrigo Duterte will certify it as an urgent bill before he steps down next year.

In his State of the Nation Address last July 26, President Duterte named 12 priority bills for Congress. The Marawi Compensation Bill was not among those he mentioned.

Daud said she and her four children have been living with their relatives since 2017 after her house and store burned during the five-month battle between government troops and the Islamic State-inspired militants in Marawi.

She said she had applied for a building permit and reparations with the local government of Marawi last year.

But Daud said that until now she has received no word whether her application was approved or not.

“I am afraid that the mercy of my relatives would run out and we will be thrown out to the streets,” the 37-year old mother said.

Daud, who is separated from her husband, said she longed for her life before the fighting that destroyed most of the buildings and houses in Marawi.

“I had a house and a small store. My children had a bedroom where they could play,” she said.

She added she and her children now live in a small windowless room.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in its May 2020 report said more than 120,000 residents still live in temporary shelters that dotted the outskirts of Marawi.

The minaret of Bato Mosque was transported to this park while construction of the mosque itself is ongoing on the other side of Marawi City on Nov. 24, 2021. MindaNews Photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

The report said the IDPs living in these shelters continue to face difficulty in accessing basic services and are in need of protection.

It said among its pressing needs are water, livelihood and information.

Khadijah Ibra, 27, said their shelter in Barangay Sagonsongan, Marawi City receives seven truckloads of water a week.

Ibra, a part time teacher, said 215 families share the precious water among themselves.

“The water is not enough for all of us. Sometimes the trucks break down and cannot deliver water,” she said.

The lack of water heightens the risk of COVID-19 infection of the IDP families who live together in the cramped, small spaces of their temporary shelters, she said.

“We barely have enough water to bath, wash our hands, clothes and utensils,” she added.

To get more water, Ibra said IDP families have resorted to buying from private contractors who deliver water to their community.

She said five big bottles or containers of water sold at P20 each are enough for her family’s drinking need.

Ongoing construction of Bato Mosque where the ISIS-inspired militants kept Father Teresito Soganub and other hostages during the 2017 Marawi Siege. MindaNews photo taken November 24, 2021 by FROILAN GALLARDO

Ibra said her family of 10 brothers and their children share a small concrete house at the temporary shelter in Sagonsongan.

She said they signed a five-year contract with the National Housing Authority after which they have to vacate the house.

“We have two more years to go and then we will find ourselves out on the streets,” she lamented.

Like the others, Ibra said they have applied for a building permit from the Marawi City government to rebuild their house in Barangay Raya Manday that was destroyed during the siege.

But, like Daud, she said they have received no word if their application has been approved.

In his visit to Marawi last October 16, President Duterte reassured that the government “is doing its best” to complete the rehabilitation of the city before his term ends in 2022.

Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) Chairman Secretary Eduardo del Rosario told Duterte that 70 to 75 percent of the rehabilitation work has already been completed.

Assistant Secretary Felix Castro Jr., TFBM Field Office Manager said that while construction for the government projects are nearly completed, restoration of houses and buildings owned by Marawi residents has not been started.

Castro said there is no money available to compensate the owners of the houses and buildings destroyed in the fighting.

“The Marawi Compensation Bill should cover the destruction of houses and buildings because government has no money for them,” he said.

He said at least 2,372 residents have applied for permits to rebuild their houses at their own expense.

He said the local government of Marawi has given permit to 1,113 owners and 389 of them have started rebuilding their houses mostly in sections 1,2 and 3 in the Most Affected Area, referring to the portion of the city that sustained the biggest damage.

“The local government is careful in providing permits because many of the lands were found to have multiple owners,” he added.

Zia Adiong, Bangsamoro Transition Authority Deputy Speaker cited the land that used to be Barangay Padian where ISIS-aligned militant leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute were killed.

Adiong said the land is part of a government project that reclaimed parts of Lanao Lake.

“How can that land have private owners when it is reclamation project. They may have the titles for it but it is clear that they are dubious,” he said.

Castro said they have completed the construction of five mosques in the city including the Grand Mosque and Bato Mosque where the militants kept Fr. Teresito Soganub, now deceased, and other hostages.

He said 20 kilometers of the Marawi Transcentral Road have already been completed as well.

Sultan Atar, however, said they would continue to rally on the streets to air their grievances on the way government is handling the rehabilitation.

“Of what use would these new government infrastructures and mosques be, if there are no people to use it,” he said. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)

(This story is supported by a grant from the Philippine Press Institute.)