A welcome bill on Marawi
It’s been a year since the Marawi war, and the resident-victims now fear what they call “attention fatigue”. They recall past disasters that hit the country when, after the initial attention, aid and donations, the national focus soon shifted away. They cite the disaster that struck Zamboanga city when the Moro National Liberation Front laid siege to the city, and national calamities like Typhoon “Sendong,” when public and government interest gradually ebbed away, affecting full rehabilitation.
While Marawi was a consistent headline item and media staple at the height of the war and immediately after it, events about it are now barely mentioned in reports, or are usually relegated to the inside pages. National concern for the emancipation of the evacuees from abject despair and untold suffering has been gradually eaten away by the latest global and national events.
Thus, it was a whiff of fresh air and relief when Sen. Bam Aquino filed Senate Bill No. 1816 providing “for Monetary Compensation for the Loss and Destruction of Residential Houses and Commercial Buildings in the Main Affected Area (MAA) and Greater Marawi Area (GMA) in Marawi City during the Marawi Siege and Providing Funds Therefor…” This move hits the proverbial nail on the head, because rehabilitation is foremost in the mind of Marawi’s victims at this time. This is their main concern—the need for assistance in rebuilding their houses and communities that had been reduced to rubble. Notice, however, that not a word about the bill has been mentioned in the media.
Being realists, Maranao folk maintain a sense of guarded optimism about the fate of the bill. This early, they accept that it may not hurdle the legislative juggernaut, given competing government priorities and the parochial interests of legislators. But, just the same, they are thankful for this much-awaited move that places their concerns anew in the national agenda.
Early on, many Marawi residents thought there was a failure of communication about the priority needs of the victims, because the Duterte administration appears to have failed to zero in on these concerns. The actual needs of ordinary Marawi folk were buried in the heap of ambitious, dream-like architectural designs and plans for the city’s rebuilding promoted by Malacanang.
Truth to tell, Marawi folk don’t need a grandiose, futuristic mega-city; neither do they need an additional military camp as the administration is planning. What they need is basic compensation and reparation for the loss of life and property that was not of their making. They also want to be hands-on in the design and reconstruction of their homes, to align that project to their tastes, culture and character.
This sentiment was articulated by Marawi City mayor Majul Gandamra during his appearance before a Senate sub-committee hearing on the rehabilitation of Marawi. After the hearing, the mayor and other stakeholders lobbied for the filing of a bill to compensate the victims. Sen. Aquino was the first to volunteer sponsorship for such a bill.
With due respect to the Malacanang-constituted Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM), the victims have scant need for a new convention center, Grand Padian Market, Heroes Monument and other such structures. While they are thankful for these plans, what they really need is to rebuild their homes, and they expect TFBM to lead the lobby for the passage of the bill.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian made another good suggestion—that banks open a window for housing loan packages with long-term repayment periods and minimal interest rates for Marawi residents. The Government Service Insurance System and Social Security System should follow suit with similar services for their member-victims. If these measures are adopted, it will unload about 50 percent of the work of TFBM and speed up the rehabilitation of the city, in sha Allah (God willing).
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Macabangkit B. Lanto (firstname.lastname@example.org), UP Law 1967, was a Fulbright fellow at New York University for his postgraduate studies. He has served the government in various capacities—as congressman, ambassador, undersecretary of justice and of tourism, etc.
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