Del Rosario: government can’t pay for looted belongings in Marawi

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 26 Jan) — The chair of the Task Force Bangon Marawi on Friday said government cannot compensate Marawi residents whose personal belongings were looted during the five-month siege.

In response to a query from Marawi if they will be compensated for items looted from their homes during the siege such as jewelry, refrigerator, TV and other appliances, TFBM chair and Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario told the Bangon Marawi press briefing in Malacanang, “hindi natin babayaran” (we cannot pay for that),

“Number one, hindi natin babayaran actually, dahil mahirap i-validate kung totoo ba yung allegation na may nawala ngang alahas, totoo ba yung allegations na nawalan siya ng pera?” (we cannot pay for them actually, because it is difficult to validate allegations of missing jewelry or money), del Rosario said.

Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario visits Barangay Sagonsongan in Marawi City on 25 October 2017. Sagonsongan is the site of the transitional shelters for displaced residents. MIndaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

He also noted that in siege situations similar to Marawi’s, “no country in the world ay nagbibigay ng ayuda (gives aid) or assistance for alleged stolen properties. So, that is not part of the assistance that will be provided by the government.”

Residents fled their villages in Marawi when the Maute Group and its allied terrorists laid siege on Marawi City on May 23 last year, after a failed attempt on the part of government to arrest the Abu Sayyaf’s Isnilon Hapilon.

Government forces hunted down the terrorist groups aided by daily air strikes that destroyed the city’s commercial center.

Isnilon and Omar Maute were killed by government forces on October 16. A day later, on October 17, President Rodrigo Duterte declared the city “liberated from the terrorist influence” and on October 23, exactly five months to the day the siege began, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana terminated all combat operations in the city.

At least 360,000 residents from Marawi fled to evacuation centers or their relatives’ houses in neighboring towns and cities in Mindanao and even in the Visayas and Luzon.  Most of them brought belongings good only for a few days. No one thought it would last five months.

Residents in villages inside Ground Zero (now referred to as MAA or “most affected area”) can finally enter the MAA for a week or up to 10 days in April, after the area shall have been cleared of improvised explosive devices and unexploded ordnance, Del Rosario said. (see other story)

Residents in villages outside the MAA returned to Marawi by batches starting late October, a number of them complaining their houses were looted.

During the five-month siege, complaints about alleged looting of their houses, had been aired by the displaced residents.

Reacting to Del Rosario’s response on the looting issue, Drieza Lininding of the Moro Consensus Group, told MindaNes, “we’ve been persistent in appealing to the Government to lead the investigation on massive lootings. Nobody came to us to investigate, only human right groups and RHRC-ARMM (Regional Human Rights Commission -Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao).” He claimed there is an  “ongoing validation of more than ten thousand cases of reported lootings.”

Lininding also acknowledged that while other countries do not pay for the looted belongings,  what happened in Marawi is that the issue of looting in the cleared and non-affected areas or those controlled by the military and police was not investigated. “Hindi ata nangyari sa ibang bansa na ang tinuturong nagnakaw ay pulis at kasundaluhan” (It may not have happened in other countries that he police and military were the ones accused of looting), he said, reiterating the need for investigation.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)