5 session days left for Congress to pass compensation bill before 5th anniv of Marawi Siege

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 25 January) – Congress has only five session days left from January 25 until February 4 to pass the Marawi Compensation Bill before the 5th anniversary of the Marawi Siege on May 23. 

If no bill is passed when it adjourns on February 4, the next sessions will be after the May 9 elections – with only six session days from May 23 to June 3 – the last 

chance for the Duterte administration to pass a compensation bill for displaced Marawi residents who have been waiting for half a decade to return home. 

The House of Representatives passed its own version of the compensation bill on September 6 last year — House Bill 9225 — which is a consolidation of three bills filed by Representatives Ansaruddin Abdul Malik Adiong (HB 3418), Mujiv Hataman and Amihilda Sangcopan (3543), and Yasser Alonto Balindong (3922). 

UNDER CONSTRUCTION. A worker heads to the road reconstruction site in Marawi City on Saturday, October 17, 2020. As of January 2022, majority of the 27,000 families in the 250-hectare, 24-barangay “Ground Zero” have yet to return home. MindaNews file photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Transmitted to and received by the Senate on September 7, HB 9925’s short title for the bill is the “Marawi Compensation Act.”  Apparently optimistic the bill would be passed last year, SB 2420 chose “Marawi Siege Victims Compensation Act of 2021” as its short title. 

The Senate Finance Committee in its Committee Report No. 324 dated September 29, 2021 recommended the approval of Senate Bill 2420 as substitute to Senate Bills 1395 and 2394, and “taking into consideration House Bill No. 9925.”

A military truck passes through a newly cemented road in downtown Marawi City on Wednesday, 24 November 2021. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

SB 1395 was introduced by Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri, the Deputy Majority Leader, and the Special Committee on Marawi City Rehabilitation chaired by Ronald dela Rosa and members Francis Tolentino, Christopher Lawrence Go, and Imee Marcos while SB 2394 was filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros.  Zubiri, Dela Rosa and Go are all from Mindanao. Zubiri is seeking reelection in May.

Asked on January 3 on the status of SB 2420,  Dela Rosa told MindaNews: “for interpellations pag resume ng session this January.”

Sessions resumed on January 17 as scheduled but were suspended the rest of the week due to the surge in COVID-19. Both houses resumed sessions on January 24, the Senate with 92 items on the agenda, 36 of these for interpellation, 56 for sponsorship.  SB 2420 was not on the list for interpellation. 

MindaNews asked Dela Rosa and Hontiveros on Monday for SB 2420’s interpellation schedule. Hontiveros told MindaNews Monday night that it is scheduled on Wednesday, January 26. “Maybe this week” was dela Rosa’s reply to MindaNews at 8:58 a.m. on Tuesday. 

No law, no budget

Because no compensation law was passed last year, no budget was allocated for it in the 2022 General Appropriations Act (GAA). 

Where to source the budget if the compensation bill is passed and signed into law this year? 

SB 2420 proposes that the amount for the initial implementation of the law “shall be charged against the current year’s appropriations of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund for the MRRRP (Marawi Recovery, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program)” and that the amount needed thereafter “shall be included in the annual GAA.” 

SB 1395 of Dela Rosa and other allies of President Rodrigo Duterte, initially proposed 30 billion pesos as the “principal source of funds for the implementation of this Act, which shall be included in the Annual General Appropriations Act for the next three years in three equal amounts but SB 2420, the consolidated bill, adopted Hontiveros’ provision on appropriations which is the same as HB 9925’s. 

Before the consolidation of the three House bills into HB 9925, Adiong’s HB 3418 sought a 50 billion peso funding, the initial amount of 10 billion pesos to be included in the GAA, while  in the succeeding years, 20 billion pesos will be sourced from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and 20 billion pesos from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation;  Hataman’s and Sangcopan’s HB 3543 and Balindong’s HB 3922 proposed 30 billion pesos in the GAA in three equal amounts in three years with an operating budget of 30 million pesos sourced from the 30-B fund.

“There is P1B under the calamity fund for Marawi Recovery, Rehab and Reconstruction Program. Contingent fund can be used for new or current activities or program,” dela Rosa told MindaNews on January 3.

Internally displaced persons from Marawi City who sought refuge in Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur stage a picket along the highway in Saguiaran on 21 February 2020 to ask the Senate’s Special Committee on Marawi City Rehabilitation to “let us go home.” MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

A check with the Department of Budget and Management showed that one billion pesos out of the NDRRMC’s P20-B budget for 2022 has been allocated for the MRRRP, but that amount is to be used  “for recovery, rehabilitation, reconstruction, aid and relief projects as identified by the TFBM (Task Force Bangon Marawi) in Marawi City and other affected areas in connection with the occurrence of armed conflicts, particularly the Marawi Siege.”

TFBM chair and Human Settlements Secretary Eduardo del Rosario told MindaNews that “if passed this year, Congress may still allocate through supplemental budget.”

Compensation: from 176,000 pesos to 1.76 million pesos 

As passed by the House of Representatives, HB 9925 aims to institutionalize TFBM which was created through an Administrative Order in 2017 “until the completion of the MRRRP and the fulfillment of the provisions of this Act.”

The proposed law provides that “all properties demolished as part of the implementation of the MRRRP shall be compensated for,” including those on the right of way whose law will be amended to include the “MRRRP, debris management programs, and programs that require the demolition of private property for the search and recovery of unexploded ordnance (UXO).”

Private property owners will be granted a “replacement cost for loss or destruction of property as a result of the MRRRP” and the cost shall be based on the “current market value of the improvements and structures.”

Those granted replacement costs shall not be precluded from receiving and benefiting from the MRRRP Land Titling Program “which intends to return real property to the owners in the form of new land titles.”

The proposed law also provides that internally displaced persons (IDPs or bakwits) whose properties were demolished or destroyed during the five-month war may file a claim for compensation. The proposed law puts emphasis on “lawful owners or possessors.”

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

Compensation for claims is to be patterned after RA 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013. The Commission on Human Rights is tasked to determine the point allocation to victims whose properties were destroyed due to the armed conflict but “the monetary award for claimants under this Act shall be equivalent and shall not exceed the monetary amount granted to the human rights victims recognized by RA 10368.”

In October 2020, after Lanao del Norte Rep. Mohammad Khalid Dimaporo proposed this  in his report to the House Committee on Disaster Resilience, 

MindaNews checked with Chito Gascon, then 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 the administration of President Ferdinand 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.

“Very deep wound”

For Saripada “Tong” Pacasum, Jr.  of  the Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch (MRCW) and Convenor of the Early Response Network, what happened in the rehabilitation efforts as well as the pleas for compensation in the aftermath of the 2017 siege has left a “very deep wound” for the Meranaws. 

He told DXMS’ Alerto Bangsamoro on January 19 that Meranaws are being treated as “second class citizens.” 

The constant delay in the rehabilitation as well as in compensation, he said, “just shows anong level ng importance” is being given them. 

“Five years is too long to finish to help us go back,” Pacasum said. 

The nine sectors of the 250-hectare, 24-barangay ‘Ground Zero’ as classifired by the Task Force Bangon Marawi.

Jalilah Sapiin, a member of MRCW who works in the Lanao del Sur office of the Ministry of Basic, Higher and Tertiary Education (MBHTE) in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), told Alerto Bangsamoro she wonders what will happen to the newly-built school buildings on ‘Ground Zero’ given that majority of the residents have not returned home. 

Thousands of displaced Marana’s, particularly those in the 250-hectare, 24-barangay ‘Ground Zero,’ the main battle area between government forces and Islamic State-inspired Maude Group, are awaiting the passage of the compensation bill so that they could start rebuilding or repairing their houses. At least 27,000f families of ‘Ground Zero’ were displaced.

Sapiin hopes the senators will continue to push for the passage of the bill before Congress adjourns on February 4. 

McMillan Luckman, Provincial Director of the Ministry of Interior and Local Governments of the BARMM said “compensation ang pinaglalaban natin para sa karapatan ng IDPs” (Compensation is what the IDPs are fighting for) so they can return home, and their destroyed properties as well as their dignity restored. 

Election issue

Drieza Lininding, convenor of the Moro Consensus Group, acknowledged the possibility that no bill may be passed and they would have to lobby again for compensation in the next Presidential administration. 

Lininding, however, continues to hope the senators who gave their commitment to the IDPs, will push for the passage of the bill.

Marawi, he told MindaNews, is an electoral issue as this is the “pinakamalaking” (biggest) unresolved issue under the Duterte administration. He recalled that the Aquino administration was hounded with issues related to the post-Yolanda rehabilitation, which, at the start of the Presidential campaign in February 2016,  was a 27-month issue.

Marawi as of January 23, 2022 is a 56-month old issue. 
“Mas worse itong Marawi,” Lininding said, adding that most of the displaced Marawi residents have yet to return home. 

A Meranaw religious carries copies of the Koran he unearthed from amidst the rubble in the Main Affected Area of Marawi City when the military allowed residents to visit what was left of their houses and erstwhile business shops on 8 May 2018, months after it was liberated from ISIS-inspired gunmen who laid siege on the city for five months. MindaNews photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

The May 9, 2022 election will be the second electoral exercise where ‘Ground Zero’ residents remain displaced.  By the 5th anniversary of the siege on May 23, it will have been their sixth Ramadan away from home.  

The Meranaws we repreparing for Eid’l Fitr on May 23, 2017. Ramadan was to start three days later, on May 26. This year’s Ramadan is on April 2 to May 2. 

Lucman said that if the bill is not passed, Meranaws should continue to clamor for its passage in the next administration. 

“Masakit tanggapin” (It’s difficult to accept), he said, as he recalled that President Duterte vowed to ensure Marawi will rise again. 

“Iba itong paningil natin kay President Duterte”  (Exacting accountability from President Duterte would be different), he said, adding it was the President himself who promised that “babangon ang Marawi” (Marawi will rise again).  

Duterte has repeatedly claimed he has Meranaw roots. 

Pacasum said he hopes the senators will still “give the last push” for the bill to pass,.
“Kayo yung mga binoto namin 
(We voted for you). Make our votes count,” he said, adding that the legislators should ensure that the voices of the Meranaws are heard. 

Sapiin hopes that in the remaining sessions, “mas palakasin pa natin ang mga boses ng Meranaws para marinig tayo sa taas” (let us strengthen the voices of the Meranaws so they will hear us). 

Duterte’s Yolanda

At the Senate Committee on Marawi’s hearing in Iligan City on February 21, 2020,  the senators allied with Duterte repeatedly said Marawi should not be Duterte’s Yolanda. 

Go said they want to know how the rehabilitation can be completed because “we don’t want the responsible officials to be negligent now and then put the blame on the President later on when his term ends.” 

“Huwag po nating hayaang matulad ang nangyari sa Tacloban sa Marawi. Hindi istilo ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte na mag-iwan ng proyektong nakatiwangwang. Hindi kami papayag ng Pangulo na mangyari ito (Let us not allow Marawi to be like Tacloban. It is not President Duterte’s style to leave unfinished projects. The President and I will not allow this to happen),” he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte joins the symbolic flag-raising rites inside the Jamiatul Philippine Al- Islamia in Banggolo District, Marawi City on 17 October 2017 and declares Marawi City “liberated from the terrorist infuence”. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

TFBM chair Rosario had repeatedly said they will finish the rehabilitation projects before June 30, the end of the Duterte administration although some projects may be completed by yearend 2022.

A Philippine Information Agency report on January 22 quoted Del Rosario as saying that “ever since, because of the weather condition of Marawi City, it will impact our timeline. Pangalawa yung COVID-19 situation, noong nagkaroon ng Delta, ngayon Omicron, may mga workers tayo na hindi nakakapasok, nagkaroon pa tayo ng lockdown. Kasi sa ating original planning, hindi yun (pandemic and bad weather) kasama,” he added. 

In his opening statement at the February 21, 2020 hearing, Zubiri said: “Marawi is a key to fight violent extremism” and “if we will not do our best in the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts here, discontentment and disgruntlement will pervade in the air which will attract extremist elements.  We do not want that to happen to Marawi.  Its people have suffered more than enough.”

“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,” he added. 

“We don’t want President Duterte to leave a legacy for the people of Marawi, a legacy like Yolanda,” Zubiri said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)