DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 October) – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night devoted a few minutes of his weekly “Talk to the People on COVID-19” defending government against complaints on the slow-paced recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation of the country’s lone Islamic city but said nothing about the compensation bills for Marawi residents whose houses and shops were destroyed during the five-month siege in 2017.
The bills’ authors and the displaced residents have been hoping the President would certify the bills as urgent as thousands have yet to return home three years after Duterte declared Marawi “liberated from the terrorist influence” on October 17, 2017.
On the third anniversary of Duterte’s “liberation” declaration last Saturday, October 17, Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, chair of Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM), reiterated to reporters in Marawi that public infrastructure such as restoring electricity and water, road repairs and construction of barangay halls in the 24-barangay, 250-hectare Most Affected Area or ‘Ground Zero,’ the main battle area between government forces and the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group and its allies, will be finished by yearend 2021.
Del Rosario said Marawi residents can return to their villages provided they get their own building permits and financing.
For majority of the 27,000 families in ‘Ground Zero,’ construction of the residential and commercial buildings destroyed in the fighting in 2017 is awaiting the passage of the Marawi Compensation Bill in Congress, he said.
Marawi Compensation Bills were filed in 2018 and re-filed in 2019 in the House of Representatives and in 2018 and 2020 in the Senate, but displaced residents cannot expect compensation in 2021 because the Senate bill is still pending at the Committee on Rules; House Bill 7503, the substitute bill to the three earlier filed had just been submitted and had just been referred to the Committee on Mindanao Affairs; and Congress is on recess until November 15, will resume sessions on November 16 but go on break again from December 18 to January 17.
But what kind of compensation can displaced Meranaws expect given that the three House bills earlier filed were “not supported” by the Duterte administration’s economic managers, and the Senate bill which is similar to the three House bills will likely receive the same reaction?
In his report and recommendations to the House Committee on Disaster Resilience hearing on August 18, Lanao del Norte Rep. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo, chair of the Technical Working Group (TWG) that drafted the substitute bill said they “took cognizance of the red flags” cited by the economic managers in their position papers.
Addressing the authors of the compensation bills, Dimaporo said he would like to be “upfront with everybody.”
“As the TWG chair, it is not the same as the Marawi Compensation Bill filed in the Senate because we have to make sure we do not violate the equal protection clause,” he said in the nearly three-hour livestreamed hearing via Zoom.
He said he drafted an amended version that “seeks to resolve” the issues raised by the economic managers. The Committee approved his report on August 18 and the
substitute bill, now HB 7503, on September 3.
Dimaporo recalled that the law providing compensation for victims of human rights violations under the Marcos regime set a minimum of 150,000 pesos to a maximum of one million pesos on a point system.
“Whatever compensation must be paid should fall within that parameter,” he said.
“You cannot go beyond that otherwise you are violating the equal protection clause of the Constitution,” Dimaporo stressed.
MindaNews checked with Chito Gascon, chair of the Commission on Human Rights and a member of the now defunct Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board on the amounts given out as compensation to victims of human rights violations under Marcos and he said it was by point system with one point corresponding to 176,000 pesos and 10 points, for the dead and disappeared, equivalent to 1.76 million pesos.
Dimaporo explained that the compensation bills as originally proposed were “not supported by the economic managers,” citing the position papers submitted by Secretary Carlos Dominguez of the Department of Finance (DOF), Secretary Wendel Avisado of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and Ernesto Pernia, then Director-General of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).
He said the DBM in its position paper cited several reasons why they are “constrained from favorably recommending the passage of the bills.”
The DOF, he said, expressed concern it “may result in double compensation” allegedly because there are already ongoing programs to assist the victims of the siege.
Dimaporo added that the position paper submitted by NEDA noted that the October 16, 2018 inter-agency development budget coordination committee chaired by DBM did not endorse the proposed compensation bills because “government cannot afford the proposed amounts.” NEDA’s Pernia resigned in mid-April.
Dimaporo said the substitute bill “took into consideration the comments and disposition” of the economic managers.
“The concerns of the economic managers have been addressed here,” Dimaporo assured.
The substitute bill consolidated the three bills on compensation filed in the House of Representatives: HB 3418, 3543 and 3922, with amendments to address the concerns of the economic managers.
HB 3418, filed by Lanao del Sur Rep. Ansaruddin Adiong on August 5, 2019, proposed to provide “monetary compensation for the loss or destruction of residential and commercial properties” during the five-month siege from May 23 to October 23, 2017, allocating 50 billion pesos spread over a period of four years, 10 billion to be included in the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA), 20 billion to be sourced from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and the remaining 20 billion from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.
HB 3543, filed by Reps. Mujiv Hataman (lone district, Basilan) and Anak Mindanaw party-list Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan on August 6, 2019, proposed 30 billion pesos to be included in the annual GAA “for the next three years in three equal amounts.”
HB 3922, filed by Lanao del Sur Rep. Yasser Balindong on August 14, 2019, proposed 30 billion pesos which shall be included in the annual budget “for the next three years in three equal amounts.”
At the public hearing of the House Sub-Committee on Marawi Rehabilitation in March last year in Marawi City, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines’ Lanao del Sur-Marawi City Chapter submitted documents pertaining to the claims of 15,102 residents displaced from Marawi’s Ground Zero, amounting to 91.6 billion pesos in damages.
5 contentious issues
Dimaporo said that as TWG chair, he studied the position papers of the economic managers and outlined five contentious issues: that awarding compensation exclusively to the residents of Marawi is a constitutional violation of equal protection clause; that the proposed Compensation Board is “redundant and not necessary” due to the mandate of the TFBM; that the funding requirement “will eat up significant portion” of the budget; that appropriation of public funds for private purposes is violative as a basic rule,” and that compensation for human rights violations “falls under the devolved power of the Bangasamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.”
Dimaporo noted that the Marawi compensation bills were patterned after Republic Act 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, which provided for reparation and recognition of human rights violations victims during the Marcos regime.
He explained that the compensation for the Marcos victims is from the proceeds of the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses while the Marawi compensation bills were initiated as “a product of public clamor to provide compensation from existing tax revenues.”
He said RA 10368 was a measure that sought to “correct widespread violence and not simply another form of financial assistance” while the Marawi compensation bills “seek to compensate, recover financial losses from the destruction of private property in the advent of the Marawi Siege.“
Dimaporo said the claims of the victims of Marawi are “based on fair market value” of the land and “may very well exceed one million pesos.”
He said he felt “embarrassed and ashamed that I cannot in good conscience support and move for the approval of a bill that does not take into account the comments of DOF, DBM, TFBM and the NEDA.”
“Magtulong-tulong na lang tayo sa House of Representatives to give you the best version that we can (come up with). Rest assured we will work hard on that,” he said. (see “Proposed Marawi compensation: from 176,000 pesos to 1.76M pesos)
At the Senate, Senate Majority leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and four other senators filed Senate Bill 1395 or the “Marawi Siege Victims Compensation Act of 2020” at 4:07 p.m. on March 4, an hour before Marawi officials and representatives of displaced Marawi residents were to meet with President Duterte in Malacanang.
Zubiris’ co-authors are Senators Ronald dela Rosa, chair of the Special Committee on Marawi City Rehabilitation; vice chairs Christopher Lawrence Go and Francis Tolentino, and member Imee Marcos.
The bill proposes to allocate 30 billion pesos to compensate for the loss or destruction of residential, cultural, commercial structures, and other properties in Marawi during the five-month siege in 2017. It proposed the amount of 30 billion pesos which shall be included in the General Appropriations Act “for the next three years in three equal amounts.”
The Senate bill seeks to provide monetary compensation for the loss or destruction of residential, cultural, commercial facilities, and other properties, “following the precedent set by RA No. 10368, otherwise known as the ‘The Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013’ as the House bills did, and “cognizant of the principle of just compensation embedded in the social justice provisions of the 1987 Constitution.”
RA 10368 sought to provide reparation and recognition of victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime.
Senator Marcos, daughter of President Ferdinand Marcos who was deposed in 1986, affixed her signature on the bill with a note: “disregarding my opposition to RA10368 at the time it was deliberated.”
The bill declares as a policy of the state to “recognize the suffering and hardship that the civilians affected by the Marawi siege have to endure” and that government 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 sought the “urgent passing of this bill.”
MindaNews checked with Zubiri, Dela Rosa and Go early this week if they followed up on the “urgent” bill but they sent no reply.
The bill was filed on March 4 this year, read on first reading and referred to the Committee on Rules on March 11. As of October 24, the bill is still pending in the committee.
The proposed 2021 budget does not include any amount for compensation as the bills have not been passed into law. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)