DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 July) – At the end of a four-hour meeting in Malacanang on March 4 with officials in charge of the three-year rehabilitation efforts in Marawi and representatives of the ‘bakwits’ or internally displaced persons (IDPs), President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to be “on top” of its rehabilitation and promised to visit the city once a month to check on its progress.
No visit was ever done because a week later, the President declared a lockdown initially in Metro Manila to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
In his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, Duterte, who claims to have Meranaw roots, was mum on Marawi and made no call on Congress to pass the Marawi Compensation Bill during his 102-minute speech.
The President also claimed no abuses were committed by the civilian sector, police and military when Mindanao was under martial law from May 23, 2017 to December 31, 2019 – a claim disputed by the IDPs who suffered from lootings and hostage survivors who had earlier told rights groups they suffered torture while in government custody.
“The President assured us na he will be on top of this rehab, tatapusin nya ito, hindi tayo papabayaan’ (he will finish this, he will not abandon us), Aslani Montilla, President of Siyap Ko Pagtaw Operations For People Empowerment Inc. in Marawi City, told MindaNews late evening of March 4, after the meeting with the President.
Drieza Lininding of the Moro Consensus Group, who was alos at the meeting, recalled the President repeatedly asked “ano ang problema” (what is the problem) why rehabilitation has taken so long. He said the President wants the rehabilitation completed in less than two years.
Duterte declared Marawi “liberated from the terrorist influence” on October 17, 2017.
The Duterte administration bows out of office on June 30, 2022. Its Task Force Bangson Marawi chair, Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, has repeatedly said the rehabilitation will be completed by yearend 2021 or 17 months from now.
For retired professor Dalomabi Bula, Duterte’s silence on Marawi in his SONA “only shows that the Meranaws and other Moro are really discriminated people in their own land. It seems we do not exist and what happened to Marawi is no big deal.”
“The Meranaw Moro do not at all matter to the President, that’s how I see it. It hurts deeply. The President says there were no military abuses done during martial law. No Filipino with understanding believes his statement. Narrations on this given by the Meranaw Moros were not given attention. Na uga lang among laway sa pagsulti ni ani (Our saliva had dried up repeatedly saying these).
In a statement on Tuesday, the Marawi Conflict Reconstruction Watch (MRCW), an independent multistakeholder dialogue group, noted that the President talked about national recovery but asked what will happen to those who have been waiting for three years “way before the pandemic and its consequent economic crisis?”
The group asked why Duterte pushed for Balik Probinsya but “how about a Balik-Marawi program to deter deaths and disease in the refugee camps and to stem the rise of violent extremists that have tapped into local discontent? “
The President appealed to Congress to prioritize the recovery of the economy through financial subsidies, easier loans, and rental reforms but “what about the promised yet much delayed compensation to stimulate the economy in an area ravaged by war and destitution?”
“When will you direct Congress to prioritize the Marawi Compensation Bill?” the group asked.
A check on Duterte’s previous SONA showed he mentioned Marawi in 2018 and 2019 but only in reference to terrorism.
In his SONA on July 24, 2017, while the war was still raging in Marawi, Duterte said: “The people of Marawi need help. Caught in the crossfire between government troops and Muslim extremists, they have been through hell and we need to help them rise and move forward.”
In his 5th SONA on Monday, he called on Congress to pass what for him were priority bills, including the death penalty, but was silent on the Marawi Compensation Bill.
Marawi Compensation Bill
The Malacanang meeting was proposed by Senator Christopher Lawrence Go during the public hearing by the Senate’s Special Committee on Marawi City Rehabilitation at the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology in Ilitan City on February 21.
Senator Ronald dela Rosa, Committee chair, announced at the end of the hearing that the “final solution,” “the ultimate solution” was to have a meeting with President Duterte.
“Wala tayong solusyon kundi yung imprimatur galing sa President para matapos na ito” (We don’t have solution but the imprimatur from President so the rehabilitation can be finished), he said.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri stressed during the hearing: “we don’t want another Yolanda here, where years after the devastation of Leyte, resettlement housing are still unfinished, or if they are fully constructed they are not livable or the people do not want to relocate there.”
“We don’t want President Duterte to leave a legacy for the people of Marawi, a legacy like Yolanda,” he said.
Dela Rosa announced at the end of the March 4 meeting that they had filed Senate Bill 1395 or the “Marawi Siege Victims Compensation Act of 2020,” proposing 30 billion pesos from the General Appropriations Act at 10 billion a year for three years.
The bill proposes monetary compensation for the “loss or destruction of residential, cultural, commercial facilities” in the 250-hectare, 24-barangay Ground Zero or the Most Affected Area, and Greater Marawi Area, following the precedent set by RA 10368 or “The Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013” for victims of human rights abuses under the Marcos regime.
The bill also said it is cognizant of the principles of just compensation in the social justice provision of the 1987 Constitution.
The bill was filed by Zubiri and Senators dela Rosa, Go, Francis Tolentino and Imee Marcos who signed with a note “disregarding my opposition to RA 10368 at the time it was deliberated.”
“The State has the moral and legal obligation to provide concrete solutions to the concerns of the victims in the long process of reconstruction, rehabilitation and recovery from damages brought about by the Marawi siege,” the authors said in their explanatory note.
The bill was read on First Reading and referred to the Committee on Rules on March 11, 2020.
“Sana unahin na muna natin ang Compensation bill ng Marawi bago ang death penalty,” Basilan Representative and Deputy Speaker Mujiv Hataman posted on his Facebook page on Tuesday.
Since he declared Marawi City “liberated from the terrorist influence” on October 17, 2017, Duterte has made only two visits to Marawi City — on January 30 and May 11, 2018 — the first during the groundbreaking rites for the second military camp that residents are objecting to, and to distribute certificates of acceptance and occupancy of transitory shelter units in Barangay Sagonsongan, where he asked for forgiveness and vowed: “We try (sic) to build a new city. I will guarantee you for the remaining years that there will always be money for you, that you’ll be able to rehabilitate your business kung talagang gusto lang ninyo (if that’s what you really want).”
The second visit was on May 11, 2018, at the Provincial Capitol Gym, for the “presentation of surrendered firearms and distribution of assistance to ISIS-Maute group surrenderees.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)