Duterte vows assistance to Marawi war victims; names Evasco as rehab chief

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 11 June) —  President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday vowed government will extend assistance to victims of war in Marawi, especially the poor, and named Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco, Jr., as rehab head.

Duterte made this announcement in response to MindaNews’ queries on how government will assist war victims and who will be in charge of Marawi’s rehabilitation.

Duterte told reporters that he had told Cabinet Secretary and Housing czar Leoncio Evasco, Jr.,  to “prepare a rehab plan for Marawi.”

President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday named Cabinet Secretary and Housing czar Leoncio Evasco, Jr. as head of the rehabilitation efforts in Marawi. Rehabilitation will begin as soon as the military declares the areas cleared. MindaNews photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

Evasco on Sunday night said he did not know he had been named rehab chief. “Di pa ko kahibalo ani. Hulat lang ko unsa ihatag nga trabaho” (I don’t know about this. I will just wait what the orders will be), Evasco told MindaNews through text message.

Duterte cited his priority in assisting the war victims. “Unahin ko lang ‘yung mga bahay na ‘yung mga mahirap. Iyong mga malalaking building, hayaan mo na,  may pera ‘yan” (I will start with the poor who lost their houses. Those who own big buildings, never mind, they have money).

Much later, when pressed on what his rehabilitation plans are, Duterte reiterated he would give priority to the poor and “kung may matira, ‘yung mga mayaman. Kung wala na, pasensiya” (if there are still funds, the rich. If there are no more funds, sorry).

Message to Marawi

Since the Marawi Crisis began on May 23, Duterte has been addressing soldiers in several camps in Mindanao, and in his speeches, has addressed the Maute Group as well but he has yet to specifically address the concerns of Marawi residents who were forced to flee Marawi in this season of Ramadan

Bakwits from Marawi wave their yellow validation slips as they await the release of relief goods at the municipal covered court in Balo-i, Lanao del Norte on Tuesday, 30 May 2017. MindaNews photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

After persistent efforts to get the President to address the Marawi residents, he finally said at the end of the press briefing: “Mga kapatid kong mga Maranao, lahat na pati the Moro world of Mindanao (My Maranao brothers and sisters, everyone including the Moro world of Mindanao).  I do not want to fight. I cannot… I simply cannot wage a war against my own people. I pray that there will be a short period of war activity and we expect it to be over soon. We are ready ang gobyerno, ang ating Republic (our government, our Republic) to extend assistance.”

As of 6 p.m. on June 9, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) reported a total of 252,638 (52,460 families) displaced by the armed conflict in Marawi.

Duterte declared martial law effective 10 pm on May 23, just hours after the clashes between government forces and the Maute Group began.

He acknowledged it is “not a good thing for a President to declare martial law, especially I’m the second President only in modern history to declare martial law.”

“I am not proud of it. I am not happy with it. But I have to call the soldiers in because they were already occupying a definite territory and governance really has collapsed there in Marawi at saka they were already flying the ISIS flag,” he added.

Army Scout rangers take cover behind a military truck after the Maute Group fired shots at them in Marawi City on may 27, 2017.  MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

He said he lost a number of soldiers to the ongoing war because he did not realize how grave the situation is. “Marami kaming patay. Hindi ko naman akalain na ganun kalala kasi now lumabas na si Baghdadi mismo, the leader of the ISIS has specifically ordered terroristic activities here in the Philippines.

As of Sunday, the death toll in the Marawi war has reached 270, 58 of them soldiers, 21 civilians and 191 terrorists.

“Bangon Marawi”

In his Mindanao Hour briefing last Saturday over Radyo ng Bayan, Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella announced that there is an Executive Order for “Bangon Marawi”(Rise Marawi) that is awaiting the signature of President Duterte.

Abella quoted Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana as saying that “Bangon Marawi,” a proposal of the Department of National Defense (DND)-led “recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation program for Marawi” is already with the Office of the Executive Secretary awaiting submission to the President.

Marawi residents bring a handicapped child on a wheelchair to safety in Iligan City, some 37.9 kilometers away on MY 27, 2017. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

The proposed package, he said, amounts to P10 billion and will be a multi-agency effort that would also involve the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Education, DSWD, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Energy, Department of Information and Communications Technology, among others.

Abella said “Bangon Marawi” is “in conjunction with the Disaster Risk Reduction Cluster” and should  take a “minimum of six months and may begin after clearing the city, which should take about at least one to two weeks.”

Abella said “Bangon Marawi” will be undertaken by the Engineering Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines “with the expressed purpose of bringing back residents and normal everyday life as soon as possible.”

Lorenzana, also Martial Law administrator, was beside Duterte when the President announced Evasco would be the rehab chief. (Carolyn O. Arguillas)