Marawi watchdog says Marawi rehab worse than expected

A local experts monitoring and dialogue group has called the rebuilding and rehabilitation of Marawi City in southern Philippines a total mess and worse than they expected.

"This was laid bare to us by the simple inability of the Task Force Bangon Marawi and the other concerned government agencies to account for its actions even towards the legitimate authorities and legislative oversight committees," the group said in a press briefing.

The MRCW was among the civil society organisations invited during the first public hearing of the subcommittee on Marawi rehabilitation at the lower house of Congress, Tuesday 5 November 2019.

Lawmakers sought updates from the inter-agency coordinating body on the fund disbursements and implementation of programs and activities for the Marawi rehabilitation.

It was revealed that more than P4 billion of the P10 billion 2018 fund earmarked for the war-torn city’s rehabilitation will be rendered useless this year if the Department of Budget and Management will not obligate it. Agencies at the hearing also failed to provide a clear accounting of the P5.522 billion already released.

Dr. Rolanisah Dipatuan, an MRCW member, said "we’ve seen how much the government is in disarray when we attended the hearing. They have been feeding us for so long with practically nothing about the status of the rehabilitation. We want clear answers."

"Our group was formed in 2018 not to condemn nor denounce, but to troubleshoot problems that may arise out of the rehabilitation process and lobby the government to take steps that will not fuel further anger and frustration of the people," explained Saripada Pacasum, Jr.

"You will forgive us for being impatient, but it is now two years after promises were made and commitments were given by the President and his subalterns about the speedy rebuilding of the city and our frayed relationships," Pacasum said.

"We claim discrimination because our plight is not taken seriously enough to warrant immediate competent action," he added.

The MRCW announced that they have decided to join the initiative of lawyers’ groups that aim to secure a legal and fair settlement of their just claims.

The group also supported the congressional subcommittee’s call of issuing subpoenas for TFBM Chair Eduardo del Rosario and all heads of agencies under the inter-agency coordinating task force to appear at public hearings and present their progress. They challenged Congress to strictly exercise their oversight function to protect the rights of more than 200,000 Marawi residents.

Compensation of victims

The MRCW noted that getting a Marawi compensation bill passed is another uphill battle that the Maranaos have to suffer, especially with little traction among top government and legislative officials.

Several bills have been filed at the lower house to compensate the victims of the war. Included are HB 3418 filed by Rep. Ansaruddin Adiong, HB 3543 filed by Rep. Mujiv Hataman and Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan, and HB 3922 filed by Rep. Yasser Alonto-Balindong. But there is no counterpart measure filed in the Senate yet and no strong champion for it, the MRCW said.

The Marawi Compensation Law is also not part of the Presidential legislative agenda, MRCW learned.

"We are now being told that the blame is being placed on the citizens of Marawi for the incursion of ISIS in 2017, or that we do not deserve financial aid because we are rich anyway. It appears clear to us that we are being treated as second class citizens," their statement read.

MRCW member Dr. Fedelinda Tawagon emphasized the need to include the private sector in the compensation package.

"The jurisprudence on just compensation for landowners dispossessed of their land, such as those whose lands were included in the government’s agrarian reform program, should also apply to us dispossessed of properties because of the war," Tawagon said.

Tawagon is president of Dansalan College Foundation, which was completely destroyed by government airstrikes during the siege.

Dipatuan said that private institutions such as schools and hospitals must be compensated because they service a big majority of Marawi’s population.

"Amai Pakpak Medical Center in Marawi was the only hospital that was not totally damaged during the siege. The hospital cannot accommodate the influx of patients. The rest of the hospitals and clinics that provide for the medical needs of the people are privately owned and have been reduced to rubbles. The health system in the city has been paralyzed. A compensation package for private hospitals in Marawi City will help these health facilities respond to the medical needs of the people," Dipatuan said.

Urgent initiatives

"The compensation bill seems to be caught in tall grass. While we retain some fleeting hope that it will pass, we also ask that some initiatives be given prompt attention, such as reversing the decision to establish a military camp in the city and instead reserve the 10-hectare land assigned for the creation of the camp for use as places for permanent shelters," said Pacasum.

The MRCW also called for the establishment of modern high-capacity trauma units in major hospitals in Marawi as well as government support that will allow for private schools and learning institutions to recover and resume operations, for example, subsidized business permits and the relaxing of some rules and requirements in granting permits to operate, such as the prior completion of libraries and laboratories.

About the Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch

The Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch (MRCW) is an independent multistakeholder experts and dialogue group that harnesses skills and professions to help in the Marawi reconstruction process and channels wider public attention and participation in its monitoring.

The MRCW helps monitor and assess the economic, social, conflict, and environmental effects of the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi City on the people in the main affected area (MAA) in particular, and Marawi City and Lanao del Sur, in general.

It is composed of people from different sectors and walks of life with different aspirations and persuasions who come together in open and meaningful dialogue on issues and concerns of people and communities on the effects and impacts of the reconstruction and rehabilitation.

Peacebuilding NGO International Alert Philippines serves as the MRCW secretariat.

Read their full statement here.