Last chance for Duterte administration to pass Marawi compensation law

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 26 July) –  Congress failed in 2019 to pass a law providing compensation for Marawi residents whose homes and business establishments were destroyed during the 2017 siege.  Its last chance to pass it requires urgency as compensation requires appropriations and its 30 billion peso proposed budget is not included in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2022, the basis for the General Appropriations Act that will be submitted soon by the Executive to the Legislative.

There is no proposed budget for compensation of Marawi victims in the NEP because no law has been passed.

Without a law on compensation for victims of the Marawi Siege,  no budget can be appropriated and President Rodrigo Duterte who claims to have Meranaw roots and who has repeatedly vowed to address historical injustices against the Bangsamoro, will likely, according to Drieza Lininding of the Moro Consensus Group, step down from office on June 30, 2022 with a legacy to the Meranaws of a Marawi still unable to rise from the ruins.

“Without compensation, there is no rehabilitation to speak of,” Lininding said.

Buildings lay in ruins after the five-month battle to retake Marawi City from ISIS-inspired terrorists. Photo taken 24 October 2017. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Civil society organizations (CSOs) offered prayers and a minute of silence on Eid’l Adha last Tuesday and in various platforms reiterated their call for the immediate passage of the Marawi compensation bills.

Early this month, a new coalition of 15 CSOs and alliances in Marawi called on both houses of Congress to expedite the passage of the Marawi compensation bill and urged the President to state unequivocally his support for compensation in his sixth and last State of the Nation Address at 4 pm on Monday, July 26.

“This is our plea to our president and lawmakers – to certify the passing of the compensation bill as urgent, so that we might have some justice for what happened in Marawi,” said Ding Cali, member of the newly established CSO Marawi Compensation Advocates and director of the Kalimudan sa Ranao Foundation, Inc.

“If you really care for us, prove it through this compensation bill. It’s not the only solution, but it will help alleviate our pain from the loss of lives and livelihood,” said Saripada “Tong Pacasum, Jr., a member of the Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch.

Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Adiong, Jr.,  appealed to Congress to pass a law for compensation so that residents of the Most Affected Area (MAA) of the country’s lone Islamic City “will start the process of rebuilding their lives.”

The Provincial Information Office quoted Adiong as saying that four years after the siege, “the patience of my fellow Meranaws is wearing thin,” as displaced families “want to get out of the transition shelters where they are presently cooped in and live in their own homes again.”

Meranaws finally get to see what’s left of their homes and their business establishments when the military allowed them to visit Ground Zero on 8 May 2018, almost a year after the Maute rebels first attacked Marawi City. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

The Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM), the inter-agency body tasked to oversee the rehabilitation, recovery and reconstruction of Marawi, has repeatedly said it will complete by yearend 2021 the public infrastructure projects in Marawi’s 250-hectare, 24-barangay ‘Ground Zero,’ the former main battle area between government forces and the Islamic State-linked Maute Group and its allies, now referred to as MAA. Recently, the task force said the unfinished projects will be completed before the Duterte administration gives way to a new administration on June 30, 2022.

TFBM chair Eduardo del Rosario, concurrent Secretary of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development told a virtual presser on July 8 that 60 to 70% of the projects that were started last year “will be completed by December 2021” but those that started late last year and early this year “will be completed by next year, most probably most will be completed in the first quarter within 2022 and all will be completed within the term of the President.”

But even if the public infrastructure projects are completed, many residents of the MAA, displaced since 2017,  need financial assistance to  rebuild their homes and shops.

Del Rosario said Marawi leaders and organizations have been asking the representatives in congress to fast track the passage of the bills.  He said the TFBM is “hoping that this will be approved as soon as possible para yung mga kababayin natin na wala makapagagawa ng bahay ay talagang makapag simula sa kanilang nasirang mga bahay (who have no financial resources can start to rebuild their houses) through the compensation bill or they would like to call it now as financial assistance.”

The bills are pending in both houses of Congress although in the House of Representatives, House Bill 7503, the substitute bill that consolidated three bills deliberated upon during the hearings of the Committee on Disaster and Resilience, has remained pending with the Committee on Mindanao Affairs since September 1, 2020.

Filed by Lanao del Norte Rep. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo, who chaired the Disaster and Resilience committee’s Technical Working Group that drafted the substitute bill,  and also chairs the Mindanao Affairs Committee, HB 7503 proposes a compensation package ranging from a minimum of 176,000 pesos to a maximum of 1.76 million pesos only, not on the fair market value or the value of its total area per storey equivalent,  as earlier proposed by the three bills it substituted, because of the objections raised by the Departments of Finance and Budget and Management and the National Economic and Development Authority.

In his report and recommendations to the Disaster and Resilience committee hearing on August 18, 2020, Dimaporo said he took cognizance of the red flags” cited by the economic managers in their position papers.

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,  was filed on August 26, 2020.

“Not supported”

Dimaporo explained that whatever compensation must be paid for the Marawi Siege victims should not exceed what was given the victims of human rights violations under the Marcos regime which is 150,000 pesos to a maximum of one million pesos on a point system.

“You cannot go beyond that otherwise you are violating the equal protection clause of the Constitution,” Dimaporo stressed.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION. A worker heads to the road reconstruction site in Marawi City on Saturday, October 17, 2020. Majority of the 27,000 families in the 250-hectare, 24-barangay “Ground Zero” have yet to return home. Rehabilitation work is still ongoing three years after President Rodrigo Duterte declared the city “liberated from the terrorist influence.” MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

But 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.

HB 7503 substituted the three compensation bills filed in August 2019 by Lanao del Sur Rep. Ansaruddin Adiong (HB 3418) and Reps. Mujiv Hataman and Amihilda Sangcopan (HB 3543), and Lanao del Sur Rep. Yasser Balindong (HB 3922).

Instead of a Marawi Compensation Board or Marawi Reparation Board as proposed by the three bills, HB 7503 proposes to institutionalize the Task Force Bangon Marawi and mandates it to “provide monetary compensation for the loss or destruction of residential and commercial properties as a result of the Marawi Siege.”

Senate Bill 1395

In the Senate, Senate Bill 1395, filed on March 4, 2020, was read on first reading and referred to the Committee on Rules on March 11 which then transferred it to the Committee on Finance and Special Committee on Marawi City Rehabilitation on November 23, where it has remained pending since.

Will President Rodrigo Duterte certify the compensation bills as urgent?

Senator Ronald dela Rosa, chair of the Senate’s Special Committee on Marawi’s told MindaNews: “I will ask the president if it is ok for him to certify it as urgent.”

The Senate’s Special Committee on Marawi City Rehabilitation at the public hearing on 21 February 2020 at the Mindanao State University –Iligan Institute of Technology gym in Iligan City. Five senators were present: Ronald dela Rosa, committee chair; his two vice chairs, Francis Tolentino and Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go and Imee Marcos, and Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Ironically, the proposed title of SB 13595 is the “Marawi Siege Victims Compensation Act of 2020.”  As of July 21, 2021, no committee hearing has been held since the promised “urgent passing” of the bill filed in March 2020.

Dela Rosa said his is not the primary committee “so I am just awaiting the appropriate actions of the primary committee” – the Committee on Finance.

“I understand the Finance Committee was very much preoccupied with the Bayanihan 1 then the Bayanihan 2 measures in the past months,” he said.

Asked when his committee would hold a hearing, dela Rosa replied: “dili man ako magdecide ana kundi ang primary committee which is Finance.Kung ako ang primary committee, hagbay ra na” (I do not decide on that. It’s the primary committee which is Finance. If my committee were the primary committee, that would have been done a long time ago).

At the public hearing of the Senate’s Special Committee on Marawi City Rehabilitation on February 21, 2020 in Iligan City, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri announced that he and the four other senators with him had committed to file on February 24, their own version of the compensation bill for Marawi and that as Senate Majority Leader, he would  “prioritize this measure for approval.”

“Kami pong lima ay committed na po sa Lunes (Feb. 24) na mag-file din ng version namin at co-author kami lahat (All five of us have committed to file on Monday our version, we’ll co-author) compensation bill for Marawi,” Zubiri said.

No compensation bill was filed on February 24. It was filed on March 4 by Zubiri, dela Rosa, Special Committee vice chairs Christopher Lawrence Go and Francis Tolentino, and member Imee Marcos

SB 1395, which is similar to the three House Bills before their consolidation and substitution into HB 7503, 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.

“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 bill’s authors said, adding that the “urgent passing of this bill is earnestly sought”

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’ and cognizant of the principle of just compensation embedded in the social justice provisions of the 1987 Constitution.”

RA 10368 provided reparation and recognition of victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime.

Senator Marcos, who co-signed as author, wrote a note beside her signature “disregarding my opposition to RA 10368 at the time it was deliberated.”

3 issues

Dimaporo, principal author of HB 7503, told MindaNews in October that he acknowledges there are complaints about the proposed amounts of compensation.

But he cited at least three issues in the three House Bills that were consolidated and substituted.

“Most houses have been demolished already and establishing fair market value without the presence of tax mapping by the city local government unit … will not suffice with the Commission Audit,” he said. He told MindaNews there was no tax mapping in pre-siege Marawi.

He said TFBM’s  damage assessment in Marawi’s ‘Ground Zero,’ the former main battle area between government forces and the IS-linked Maute Group and its allies during the five-month war in 2017, was only  8 billion pesos while the bill’s authors were asking for 30 to 50 billion pesos. “Discrepancy can’t be explained,” he said.

Dimaporo added that the economic managers – the secretaries of Finance and Budget and the director-general of the National Economic Development Authority fear that this will be a slippery slope to provide compensation to other victims such as Zamboanga Siege.  “Marawi can’t be treated ‘special’ because of the equal protection clause in the constitution,” he said.

Internally displaced persons from Marawi City who sought refuge in Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur stage a picket along the highway in Saguiaran on Friday (21 February 2020) to ask the Senate’s Special Committee on Marawi City Rehabilitation to “let us go home.” The Committee is visiting Marawi’s Ground Zero and shelter sites before convening a public hearing at the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology Friday afternoon. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Dimaporo explained his goal is to “pass a version to the Senate before the year (2020) ends” because “once it reaches the second quarter in 2021,  there will be no material time to enact the compensation bill into law unless prioritized by Malacanang.”

“Plus election fever will more than likely set in the closer we get to filing of (certificates of) candidacy” in October 2021.

“For now, I believe my version is the ‘safe and manageable’ form but still open for amendments in the plenary wherein Congress has plenary powers unlike the committee where we have to consider the position papers of the Executive.”

“Hopefully we can come up with a better version. I’m not satisfied with the substitute bill, but it’s the safe bet for now,” Dimaporo said.

MindaNews sought Dimaporo for updates on the status of the substitute bill but he has yet to send a reply. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)