The proposed new military camp in Marawi: break ground first, consult later; pay now, study later

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 November) – Break ground first, consult later; pay now, study later.

That sums up the history of the proposed new military camp in Barangay Kapantaran, the second in the Islamic City of Marawi after Kampo Ranao which hosts the 103rd Infantry Brigade.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s Memorandum Order 41, signed on November 15, 2019 but released only this week, ordered the creation of a Technical Working Group (TWG) “to study the establishment of a military camp” in Kapantaran, nearly two years (21.5 months to be exact) after he graced the groundbreaking rites for that proposed camp on January 30, 2018.

The view from the site of Marawi’s old City Hall in Barangay Kapantaran, the future site of the second military camp in Marawi City. MindaNews photo taken on 17 October 2018 by GREGORIO BUENO

Kapantaran is the site of the old City Hall which overlooks the city and Lake Lanao, and is one of the 24 barangays in Ground Zero, the main battle area in 2017 between government forces and the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group and its allies, now referred to as Most Affected Area (MAA). The MAA comprises 250 hectares.

The Memo Order comes 16 months after the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released on July 11, 2018, the amount of 51.37 million pesos under SARO-BMB-D-18-0015291 to the Department of National Defense (DBM) for the Philippine Army “to cover the acquisition of land in Marawi City as site for a new military camp.”

It also comes a full year after government filed expropriation proceedings after prices per square meter of land in the proposed site went up from 100 to 200 pesos per square meter before the Marawi Siege began on May 23, 2017, to 2,000 to 10,000 pesos per square meter in 2018, according to Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, chair of the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM). Del Rosario told the Mindanao Media Forum in Davao City on November 16 last year that expropriation proceedings were filed first week of November. He said government was eyeing 10 hectares of land for the camp but could settle for six hectares.

Marawi Mayor Majul Gandamra told MindaNews on Sunday that there has been no ruling on the expropriation.

Memo Order 41 also comes 19 months after results of focus group discussions (FGDs) with nearly a thousand Marawi stakeholders from various sectors showed, among other issues, that residents of Ground Zero or the Most Affected Area (MAA), “are nearly unanimous in their opposition to the establishment of additional military camp in their area.”

The FGDs were conducted in April 2018 after residents complained that the rehabilitation plan presented by Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) in March was done without consulting them. The TFBM claimed it made consultations. It later sought the World Bank for technical assistance, hence the April FGDs.

Fifteen days before Memo 41 was signed, the People’s Maswara (Consultation) in a resolution on October 31, 2019 said “another military camp or military industrial base is the last thing needed or wanted by the Meranaos.”

The resolution asked the President to “reconsider the establishment of another military camp in the city; to give justice to the devastated city and ruined lives of its dwellers and to support the speedy approval of the compensation bill for the IDPs” (internally displaced persons).

TWG’s 9 tasks

The TWG is to be composed of six national agencies: the Department of National Defense, Office of the Executive Secretary, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Land Registration Authority, Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development; and Department of the Interior and Local Government.

The Memo Order does not provide representation of the local governments of Marawi and Lanao del Sur as well as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, in the TWG.

The Memo Order lists nine tasks of the TWG:

  • conduct a census for the identification of those who will be affected by the establishment of the military camp in Kapantaran, Marawi City;
  • consider the institution of three detachments composed of three battalions dispersed at the boundaries between Marawi City and its contiguous municipalities;
  • conduct a resurvey of the area to reestablish the metes and bounds of the proposed military camp;
  • ascertain the status of ownership and possession of the lands proposed to be included in the military camp in Brgy. Kapantaran;
  • expedite the titling and registration of the affected parcels of land, without prejudice to private rights, upon final determination that they will form part of the military camp;
  • assist in the resettlement of the individuals and families which may be displaced from their residences and communities as a result of the acquisition of lands for the military camp;
  • provide administrative and technical support to all affected local government units regarding matters arising from the establishment of the military camp;
  • enlist the support of other government agencies and instrumentalities in the performance of its functions under this Order; and
  • submit periodic reports to the Office of the President relative to the establishment of the military camp in Brgy. Kapantaran.

“I will pay you”

In his speech in Barangay Sagonsongan in Marawi City after the groundbreaking rites for the camp in Kapantaran on January 30, 2018, Duterte said: “I’m going to set a camp here but I will pay you. This is a military reservation pero may mga may-ari naman ng lupa. O sige na lang, kung anong makuha nila, eh ‘di bayaran na lang. We will pay para walang gulo. And that is your guarantee.”

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte leads the time capsule laying during the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the military camp at the Old City Hall in Marawi City on January 30, 2018. Joining the ceremony are Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Department of Interior and Local Goverment Officer-in-Charge Eduardo Año and Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council Chairperson Eduardo del Rosario. SIMEON CELI JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Then Army Chief Lt. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista, told MindaNews that a battalion under the 103rd Brigade will occupy the new military camp. “No new division will be deployed or moved to Marawi,” he said.

Then Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, who arrived in Marawi ahead of President Duterte, told a press briefing that the President had directed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to speed up the process of identifying the affected landowners.

But nearly two years after the “speed up the process” order was issued, Memo Order 41 now tasks the TWG to “conduct a census for the identification of those who will be affected by the establishment of the military camp in Kapantaran, Marawi City.”

Marawi City’s total land area is 8,755 hectares, 6,667 of which were declared a military reservation by President Elpidio Quirino in 1953. Some Meranaws reportedly obtained titles to the lands while others contend they had pre-existing rights long before the 1953 declaration as the lands they occupy had been the home of their ancestors.

Relocate site

Marawi Mayor Gandamra recently wrote President Duterte requesting him to “consider relocating the area of construction of the said camp on a strategic position that will not necessarily encroach or invade the privacy of the populace and simultaneously, recognize historical sites with heritage value.”

Gandamra said the city government does not object to the establishment of a camp “to enhance security measures in the city” but cited the “sentiments of the greater majority” particularly the owners of the land in the proposed site who said the land is “a part of their holistic identity as a native people of Marawi.”

He said the proposed camp site is the “original location of the old Marawi City Hall – a building which is considered by historians as as a tangible cultural heritage of the Islamic City of Marawi.”

Marawi’s old City Hall in this photo taken on 17 October 2018. MindaNews photo by GREGORIO BUENO

Gandamra’s letter to the President was coursed through Secretary del Rosario of the TFBM.

“Don’t repeat mistake”

Drieza Lininding, chair of the Moro Consensus Group, in a statement on Friday said President Duterte “should not repeat his mistake during Marawi siege for his failure in not consulting the Meranaws so that he will get fair and truthful accounts of what is really happening on the ground, wag lang sa mga warmonger and sipsip na Meranaws or Moros (and not just rely on warmongers and bootlickers among the Meranaws or Moros).

“Memo 41 by the President is a proof that this camp will be forced or imposed upon us, violating our right for Free, Prior and Informed Consent. They have no plan to consult us, even our own LGUs (local government units) are not part of the (TWG).”

Lininding said establishing a new camp will “endanger nearby communities as this is prone to attacks by militant or radical groups, like what they did during Marawi Siege.”

He cited the suicide bombing cases in Basilan and Sulu, adding “they are targetting military camps and detachments.”

Objections notwithstanding, a new military camp in Marawi City is expected to rise as soon as the TWG finishes its tasks.

Memo 41’s title is creating a TWG “for the establishment of a military camp in Kapantaran, Marawi City.”

The camp is intended to “reinforce current efforts of the government to secure Marawi City and its neighboring areas.”

What has happened in the proposed camp site beyond the groundbreaking rites on January 30, 2018? Except on rare occasions, this area has been off limits to civilians since combat operations were terminated on October 23, 2017.

How much of the 51.38 million peso fund released by DBM to the Defense department on July 11, 2018 has been spent “to cover the acquisition of land in Marawi City as site for a new military camp”? (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)