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COMMENTARY

The law of ‘morka’ in the Marawi tragedy

05:04 AM April 04, 2018

Recently, the Senate conducted the first ever hearing on the war in Marawi City. It didn’t discuss the whys and hows of the war but the postconflict program of the government. The Senate ad hoc committee on the rehabilitation of Marawi, presided over by Sen. JV Ejercito, invited representatives of government agencies, resource persons and stakeholders, including this writer. As expected, the chair of Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM), Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, was put on the hot seat to field questions from impatient property owners-victims.

The mood among the Marawi residents who attended the hearing was visibly to “exact blood” from both the jihadists and the government forces. Some speakers unabashedly shed tears and hurled invectives at no one in particular, perhaps in an act of catharsis to ease their pain. Out of despair and helplessness they prayed in whispers for the Maranaw law of morka (from the expression kiamorkaan) to fall upon those who had a hand in the ruin of the city and their lives.

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Morka is nothing more than karma, or a curse. The deep-seated belief of the Maranaw in morka is founded on natural law and Allah’s law, which punish those who inflict harm and injustice on fellow human beings. They cited the ignominious death of the Maute patriarch and siblings and the accidental bombing by fighter planes that killed soldiers as manifestations of morka. They warned of more to come.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian aired the most profound and sensible insight on the rebuilding of Marawi, which the TFBM should take to heart. Among others, he suggested a “suitable financing package” payable in 10-15 years with interest of 2-3 percent or less. He proposed a family-specific program for rebuilding, not an omnibus policy of indiscriminately bulldozing what is left of the ruined structures. He pointed out, correctly, that the victims have different needs and that the damage they suffered is not the same.

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I bluntly asserted that the government is missing an important point. Every time bureaucrats speak, they talk about rebuilding public infrastructure. But truth be told, the government structures that were damaged are few. No bridge was destroyed, and a few school buildings can still be repaired. The houses and properties of civilians bore the brunt of destruction, yet these are mentioned only in passing, without specific and categorical statements, or even a blueprint, on how to help them. The construction of housing is only a band-aid solution because residents still want to return to their places of abode.

I asked that the rehabilitation program give primary consideration to monetary reparation or compensation to the victims of the war. Granting en arguendo that the principle of state immunity shields the government from responsibility, it still has a moral obligation to compensate the victims. The proximate cause of the ruin may be the jihadists’ attack, yet the government failed to protect the residents — a task which is its raison d’être. This same principle was used for the passage of a law establishing a commission to pay monetary compensation to the victims of martial law.

Procrastination will be the main culprit in the rehabilitation process. The more the rebuilding is delayed, the more the Marawi residents’ rage against the government is fueled, and the more the resolve of young Moros to pick up from where the Mautes left off is given reason. We even wonder if the National Economic and Development Authority has prepared and submitted to the President the Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan based on the postconflict needs assessment. We wonder because nobody is telling us.

Meanwhile, I hear a collective prayer in mosques for the law of morka to flex muscle.

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Macabangkit B. Lanto (amb_mac_lanto @yahoo.com), UP Law 1967, was a Fulbright fellow in New York University for his postgraduate studies. He has served the government as congressman, ambassador, and undersecretary, among other positions.

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