Displaced Marawi folk ask Duterte for compensation as he delivers SONA today

By : Bobby Lagsa Mindanao Today/10:52:44am 07/26/2021


INTERNALLY displaced persons living in Sarimanok Tent City in Marawi share their stories and the difficulty of living inside temporary shelters months after the war. (Bobby Lagsa)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – As Pres. Rodrigo Duterte is expected to deliver his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) today, Marawi City residents are calling on the country’s leader to make the Marawi Compensation Bill a priority even as it urges Congress to tackle the legislation.

Four years after the war in Marawi has damaged properties and killed thousands, the city’s displaced residents are still demanding the national government to fulfill its promise of paying those affected by the armed conflict that erupted in 2017.

The residents said the government funds intended for them will be used to rebuild their homes and businesses.

Lanao del Sur 1st District Rep. Ansaruddin Adiong filed House Bill 7711, which provides monetary compensation for the loss or destruction of residential houses and commercial buildings in the Main Affected Area (MAA) of Marawi during the five-month siege.

However, HB 7711 has yet to be discussed in the plenary after it hurdled committee deliberations, while there is no counterpart bill of it in the Senate.

Saripada Pacasum Jr., former disaster risk reduction and management head of Lanao del Sur, said that Duterte’s government must put priority on the compensation for those who are affected the most, but at the same time, called on the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) to verify its list of beneficiaries.

Pacasum is now with Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch (MRCW), which is also part of the Marawi Compensation Advocates, a broad coalition of 15 civil society organizations.

TFBM is the government agency in charge of the reconstruction of Marawi including its programs for transition shelters and livelihood program and food assistance distribution.

Pacasum said he is worried that the lack of action on the promises given by Duterte to rebuild Marawi in three years’ time have lapsed and this can be used as a recruitment tool by extremists fed up with the failures of the president in the Marawi rehabilitation.

“If we look back, there are too many broken promises, too many schedules that did not push through,” he said.

Pacasum added that TFMB kept saying that their progress is at 60 percent complete, but it is not what the residents are seeing.

“Probably the roads (are 60% complete), but hopefully, there is a miracle for the completion,” he added.

Drieza Lininding of the Moro Consensus Group said that the government should allow the residents of MAA to rebuild their homes because they are capable of rebuilding.

He said that the government should pay compensation for the IDPs if only to jumpstart its reconstruction of family homes destroyed by the siege.

“We have been living here for centuries, we have proof that we can rebuild ourselves. Allow us, residents, to rebuild our city back to its former glory,” Lininding said.

Sultan Hamidullah Atar of RIDO Inc. said that there is already precedence in compensation for the victims of the Martial Law in 1972.

“The Martial Law in 1972 has a compensation, even if not everyone was compensated, most of them received compensation for the resolve of the 1972 (martial law),” Atar said.

He said that the government should help Marawi as Lake Lanao powered the growth of Mindanao and the Mindanao State University produces so many graduates and leaders that propelled the nation’s growth.

“This time, it is us that are in dire need of help. We suffered not only because of the Marawi siege but because for the last four decades, we suffered during the MNLF and MILF war,” Atar said.

He said that if the government is sincere in its call for peace, the compensation bill must be passed.

Atar added that infrastructure development by the government would mean nothing if there are no people allowed to rebuild their homes.

In a recent television interview, Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra said that it is not easy for residents to rebuild their homes since they lost their livelihoods.

“Those from the lower and middle class opt to stay in areas where they are situated now until they have the fund for the construction of their houses,” Gandamra.

Data from Marawi City’s Office of the Building Official showed that of the 2,400 applications for a building permit, 500 were approved while 200 completed their construction and were given occupancy certificates.

In a press release, TFBM Chairperson Secretary Eduardo del Rosario said that residents in sectors 1 to 3 were allowed to rebuild their homes early this year, “provided that they submit documents proving land ownership.”

Prof. Noni Lao of Lanao del Sur Peoples Council said that del Rosario promised that IDPs can return to their home this year.

“We are pushing for this compensation bill so that people can start rebuilding their lives. Everyone needs money for the repair or rebuilding of their homes even if it is just a ‘bahay kubo’ in their own lots,” Lao said.

Del Rosario added that residents in sectors 4 to 7, meanwhile, will be allowed to rebuild their homes by October 2021 once the construction of the entire road network is complete.

The Marawi siege started on May 23, 2017, when extremists with links to ISIS attack Marawi, starting a five-month war.

Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi on October 16, 2017, after the leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute were killed.

However, the End of Combat Operations by the Armed Forces of the Philippines came on November 18, 2017.

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