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Congressional leaders praised their own “outstanding performance” during the 18th Congress after passing 72 bills that mostly paved the way out of a pandemic. Yet one crucial law was not on the list — the compensation bill for the victims of war in Marawi.

Once again, a law that renews life for victims of war is left unattended. Once again, relief touches those suffering from disease, but evades those suffering from both war and disease.

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In his 2017 State of the Nation Address, President Duterte said: “The people of Marawi need help. Caught in the crossfire between government troops and Muslim extremists, they have been through hell and we need to help them rise and move forward.” In another event, he gave the assurance that “Marawi will rise up again as a prosperous city.” But four years have passed. How long must we wait? Our homes remain destroyed. Our properties lie wasted and unvisited. Thousands remain in shelters in dire conditions.

To be sure, rehabilitation is not only about structures. Most of all, it is about people.

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People in Marawi are reeling in despair. Communities are fractured by violence. Relationships are difficult to restore when we cannot meet our basic needs. The COVID-19 pandemic has added another layer to our hardships and reinforced existing vulnerabilities. The absence of significant progress in the rehabilitation efforts continues to fuel despair among us.

We know the threats that lurk ahead as the situation deteriorates. Extremist violence is resurgent. Dangerous and illicit economies in drugs and weapons are rearing their heads like at no time in the past.

Our profession as doctors and rescue workers places us on the frontlines when it comes to dealing with risks. Both of us saw firsthand the suffering of our fellow Maranao

during and after the siege. We are founding members of the Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch, and since 2018, our group has been at the forefront in pushing for a Marawi compensation bill in both the House and the Senate. The draft bill we submitted was filed by Senators Zubiri, Tolentino, Dela Rosa, Go, and Marcos as Senate Bill No. 1395, or the Marawi Siege Victims Compensation Act of 2020.

We participated in many public hearings as resource persons. We surfaced urgent issues and lobbied for our people. We are pained when we see how our pleas are not heard and our priorities sidelined. The pain cuts deeper when we are blamed for the incursion of ISIS into Marawi and that therefore we do not deserve compensation. But we continue to speak truth to power and to fight on, because there is no alternative.

As we count down to the fifth year since the war and enter the last few months before a new government rises in place of the current one, we see the need to accelerate our efforts to achieve meaningful progress.

We continue to seek recognition as victims of war that deserve just compensation. We have called on the government to push for the passage of the bill as a sign of sincerity and a willingness to meet its moral and legal obligations in this long process of recovery.

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We do not forget, and we hope you will not forget us, too. We call on the President and Congress to pass the Marawi compensation bill as soon as possible.

We are Filipinos, too. We deserve the same justice and equal priority as the rest of our countrymen.

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Rolanisah Dipatuan-Dimaporo, M.D. and Saripada “Tong” Pacasum Jr. represent the Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch, an independent multistakeholder dialogue group that harnesses skills and professions to help in the Marawi reconstruction process and channels wider public attention and participation into its monitoring.

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TAGS: Commentary, Marawi rehabilitation, Marawi siege, Rolanisah Dipatuan-Dimaporo
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