DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 04 June) – At least 35.8 million pesos out of a total of PhP 36.92-M donation for victims of the 2017 Marawi Siege has remained unspent as of May 30, 2019.
This, even as the bulk of the amount — PhP 36.77-M out of PhP 36,920,725 — was donated between August and November 2017.
Ed Posadas, spokesperson of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), told MindaNews in a telephone interview Monday that 1.08 million pesos had been disbursed as of May 30, up from 10,000 pesos as of yearend 2018, leaving a balance of PhP 35.8-M.
This year, he said, a million pesos was given to Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) for its social healing and peacebuilding activities for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) while 70,000 pesos went to families of seven victims slain during the siege at 10,000 pesos each, in addition to the lone beneficiary’s last year.
The OCD is the implementing arm of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
In his statement on May 31, Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad, OCD Administrator and NDRRMC Executive Director, said the one million peso support to TFBM field office was “for their project during the Ramadan holiday on June 5.”
Jalad is also Executive Director of TFBM.
Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, TFBM chair, told MindaNews on Monday that the one million peso fund was “requested a month ago to support the Ramadan intervention activities of the Field Office.”
Posadas said the donations may be in the custody of the OCD but the utilization of the fund is with the implementing agencies.
The Commission on Audit (COA) found in its Annual Audit Report on the OCD that at the end of 2018, a total of 36.92 million pesos had been donated for the victims of Marawi Siege.
The COA report included a table showing the names of the donors, the dates and amounts of donation. MindaNews noted that a total of PhP 36.77-M was donated between August and November 2017.
The table also showed the balance as of December 31, 2018 was pegged at PhP 37,814,909.62 because of the gain on foreign exchange revaluation of PhP 894,184.02. The forex gain, however, fluctuates.
But based on the PhP 36.92-M total donation, only 10,000 pesos or .026 % of the donated funds – was disbursed in 2018 to only one beneficiary — the family of a slain victim who was not named in the report.
“Clearly, the donations were not utilized to provide for the much needed support of the Marawi Siege victims,” the COA said, adding that “the poor utilization of the donated funds defeated the purpose of donation and that the good intention of the donors for human consideration was not fully served.”
By May 30, 2019, 1.08 million pesos had been disbursed, representing 2.92% of the total donations.
Ten donors, 9 in 2017
Nine donors gave a total of 36.77 million pesos between August 22 and November 27, 2017: the embassies of Thailand (PhP 5,092,000) and India (PhP 25.57-M), the provincial government of Bulacan (PhP 4-M), the municipalities of Tagudin in Ilocos Sur (PhP 100,000), and Infanta, Isabela (PhP 100,000); Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PhP 500,000); Mr. and Mrs. Jaime Dimson of Lubao, Pampanga (PhP 1-M); and two other anonymous donors (PhP 111,500 and PhP 300,000).
The 10th donor, Belle D. Justiniani donated PhP 147,225 on June 5, 2018, bringing the total donations to PhP 36,920,725.
The COA report said that as of December 31, 2018, “only ₱10,000.00 was actually utilized leaving a balance of ₱36,910,725.00.”
It said Memorandum Order 13 of the NDCC (now NDRRMC) dated June 23, 1998 provides that donated funds shall also be utilized for “payment of financial assistance to victims of calamities” although it “should not be restricted only to the grant of financial assistance” as provided under the 1998 memorandum order.
The memo provides that families of disaster victims shall be given 10,000 pesos for the dead and 5,000 pesos for the injured.
The COA, however, noted that financial assistance can only be availed of if claims are filed at the regional DRRMC, supported by documents.
For the injured, the documents required are a medical certificate from the hospital or clinic where the victim was confined for at least three days, local DRRMC or police report on the incident, and local endorsement for the payment of claims from the chair of the local DRRMC.
For the dead, relatives must be able to present a local DRMMC or police report on the incident, death certificate, certification from the barangay captain, proof of filial relationship with victim and endorsement for the payment of claims from the local DRRMC.
“The production alone of the above documents could be very burdensome for some victims, which could be one of the causes of low utilization of the donated funds,” the COA said.
The memo order, it noted, also provides that “all claims are valid only within one year from the time of the disaster.”
The war in Marawi was from May 23 to October 23, 2017. One year after the disaster is October 23, 2018.
Posadas said he believes families can still avail of the assistance despite the lapse of a year, for humanitarian considerations, Marawi being a different case from other disasters as it is “human-induced.”
In fact, families of seven slain victims were able to avail of the 10,000 peso each assistance this year.
But Posadas reiterated that documents are required for submission.
He acknowledged the difficulties of relatives in presenting death certificates as most of those whose loved ones were killed in the war or are missing and are believed to have died have no death certificates to show. Most of them were unable to retrieve the cadavers or remains of their slain kin, particularly those in Ground Zero, the main battle area between government forces and the Maute Group and its allies from May 23 to October 23, 2017.
He said they learned during stakeholders’ consultations that some relatives are hesitant to come forward and claim their relatives died in the war for fear they will be suspected as supporters of the Maute Group.
Government records at the end of the war in October 2017 put the death toll at 47 civilians, 168 soldiers and at least 900 Maute fighters. At the Maqbara Public Cemetery in Marawi, the remains of 282 persons are buried, awaiting the results of DNA matching with their relatives.
Some of the dead were buried in the war zone itself. It is not clear if all the remains buried there had been exhumed.
Some remains were not retrieved at all as the war raged for five months, leaving them to the elements and, according to Marawi leader Agakhan Sharief who was able to enter the war zone four times to negotiate for the release of the hostages, the dogs.
Following the release of the COA report last week, Undersecretary Jalad, assured the public that the donated funds are “not missing.”
“The reason for the low utilization of the donated funds is that the OCD was instead utilizing its Quick Response Fund (QRF) to ensure expeditious delivery of services to the victims of Marawi,” he said in a statement issued on May 31.
Jalad said the QRF was used for funeral assistance, transportation assistance, feeding programs in schools; food, non-food items, and family packs; rice augmentation for Department of Social Welfare and Development field office, procurement of various items for Evacuation Centers in Lanao del Norte such as insulators for tents, aggregates for surface hardening and TV sets; reconstruction of school buildings and support to the TFBM field office.
The General Appropriations Act provided for a budget of 10 billion pesos for the Bangon Marawi Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program (BMCRRP) for 2018.
Jalad said that as of May 30, 2019, a total of PhP 5.164 billion had been released for the BMCRRP, PhP 4.8 billion of which was released in 2018 while PhP 213 million was released this year for different projects, programs and activities (PPAs) “such as business and livelihood assistance, housing, land resource management, reconstruction, and health and social services.”
Jalad added that based on their discussion with TFBM chair del Rosario, the donated funds still in the custody of the OCD “will form part of the funding source for projects that will be implemented for the rehabilitation and recovery of Marawi City.”
Del Rosario told MindaNews on Monday that TFBM field office manager Assistant Secretary Felix Castro “will determine needed projects /programs on the ground and submit his request for funding to OCD. Nothing specific yet.”
Gift from China
Posadas said 10 million pesos out of the remaining PhP 35.8-M is being earmarked for the feasibility study of the Department of Public Works and Highways to serve as “trigger for China aid program for Marawi … para sa malalaking activities” (for the major activities).
He could not provide details for the “malalaking activities” but at the pledging session for the BMCRRP in late November last year, the Chinese government committed a grant of 150 million renminbi yuan (around 1.15 billion pesos) for Marawi.
Chinese Premier Li Kequiang had actually announced the donation a year earlier, after meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacanang on November 15, 2017, barely a month since Duterte declared Marawi “liberated from the terrorist influence.”
Li said the Chinese government will provide the billion-peso grant “for the rebuilding and improvement of livelihood in Marawi to demonstrate the support of the Chinese people.”
A MindaNews report in April this year quoted Li Lin, consul general of the recently-opened Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Davao City, as saying Beijing wants to help rebuild Marawi to strengthen their improving ties with the Philippines.
“The support from China to participate in post-war Marawi… is a gift from the Chinese government,” he said.
Aside from the “gift,” he added that “probably there would be some cooperation projects plus private sector and state-owned companies that will invest in Marawi. That will be a win-win cooperation. It’s not money that will be lent to Philippines but Chinese companies coming in to invest (in Marawi).”
In a statement posted late Monday, Drieza Lininding of the Moro Consensus Group noted that while the government assured that donated funds are not missing, “it deprived thousands of IDPs whose conditions last year could have been alleviated had the donation been used for their basic needs.”
He appealed to the government to use the donated funds “to alleviate the plight of the Marawi Siege victims as this was the purpose for the donation in the first place. “
“We demand transparency in the use of funds – whether allocated or donated – for Marawi,” he said.
Lininding said they want to know exactly how much of the 10-B peso budget allocated for the BMCRRP was actually released, why only half was released to various agencies last year, and how much is the allocation for 2019.
“We demand information on how the 36.91 million donation will be used in 2019 or if part of it has been disbursed this year, how much, for whom and for what purpose?,” Lininding asked.
As of May 30, 2019, according to Posadas, the unspent donation still in the custody of the OCD is no longer PhP 36.91 million but PhP 35.8 million.
This does not include the gain on forex which was PhP 894,184.02 as of December 31, 2018. MindaNews is still awaiting word from the OCD on how much the gain on forex is as of May 31 this year. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)