‘Bakwit’ forever? (2) | Inquirer Opinion
Kris-Crossing Mindanao

‘Bakwit’ forever? (2)

/ 04:10 AM November 08, 2022

On April 13, 2022, former president Rodrigo Duterte signed into law a consolidated bill filed in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to provide compensation and other benefits to the victims of the Marawi siege. This is Republic Act No. 11696, or the Marawi Siege Victims Compensation Act of 2022. Victims of the five-month siege (May to October 2017) in the heart of the only Islamic City in the country have repeatedly demanded compensation and overall reparations for what happened to them and their properties as a result of the almost daily “carpet bombing” of their city. After five years, and toward the end of the Duterte administration, the Marawi siege victims have finally received good news—RA 11696.

In sum, RA 11696 provides that “any owner of a residential, cultural, commercial structures, and other properties in the siege’s Most Affected Areas (MAAs) and Other Affected Areas (OAAs) qualified under this Act shall receive compensation from the State, free of tax as herein prescribed…”


Its most salient provision is the creation of a Marawi Compensation Board, envisioned to be an independent, quasi-judicial body to be composed of nine members, to be appointed by the president of the Philippines. The nine members of the board will have at least three lawyers, preferably Maranaw; two members of civil society organizations, (either a Shari’ah lawyer or a Muslim traditional leader); one licensed physician; one certified public accountant (CPA), one educator and one licensed civil engineer. Among other tasks, the board is mandated to conduct independent administrative proceedings and resolve disputes over claims, among others (Section 7, Chapter II).

For five long years, the “bakwit” in Marawi have waited for the government to address their legitimate grievance of being the collateral damage of Duterte’s goal of crushing the members of the terrorist Maute group that threatened to burn Marawi City. To recall, Duterte responded to this threat by ordering the “carpet bombing” of the city, especially the areas the Philippine military forces believed to be the Maute group’s lairs. But instead of targeting only the terrorists, ordinary Maranaw lost their lives, homes, and prized possessions to the daily military assault. Many survivors considered it like a military invasion (of a different kind), an “overkill”—it was always compared to burning a house just to kill one or a few rats.


Thus, the passage of RA 11696 was like the coming of a new dawn for the displaced communities, who have been in transitional shelters for longer than they were supposed to be by international humanitarian standards for displaced populations. Transitional shelters are meant to be occupied for one or two years, at the most, for the displaced members of the community to be brought back to their places of origin, and for the government (the perpetrator in this case) to start the rebuilding and reconstruction process of the most affected areas.

But to the disdain of Marawi siege survivors, they had to endure living in cramped transitional shelters, in areas far from where they used to have a thriving livelihood, and also bereft of basic amenities like potable water. For Muslims like the Maranaw, water is essential not only for drinking and for food preparation, but most importantly for the practice of Islam. Ablution of some parts of the body is required before a Muslim starts to pray.

One member of the Reclaiming Marawi Movement said that several families in the shelters in one barangay, Sagonsongan, had to bear with not being able to eat at least three meals a day, for quite some time. They also told me of several mental health cases among the survivors, many of whom lost their loved ones in the siege. Up to now, these problems persist among some Marawi bakwit.

However, an unaddressed question bothers the Marawi bakwit. They agree a compensation board is necessary to ascertain the veracity of future claims and their claimants. But they find it strange that RA 11696 does not provide for a Truth Commission that should accompany government’s efforts to provide reparations for victims of massive human rights violations, like what happened to them.

(To be concluded)

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TAGS: House of Representatives, Marawi, Rodrigo Duterte, Truth Commission
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