Gutoc on Marawi rehab: Gov’t not learning from mistakes post-Yolanda

Mara Cepeda
Marawi City civic leader Samira Gutoc says the government and the residents should 'co-manage' rehabilitation efforts

REBUILDING. Marawi City civic leader Samira Gutoc gives her assessment of the government's rehabilitation efforts in her hometown. Screenshot from Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Maranao civic leader Samira Gutoc is unsatisfied with the way President Rodrigo Duterte’s government is handling the rehabilitation of her hometown, war-torn Marawi City.

The senatorial bet from the Oposisyon Koalisyon said the government should learn from the mistakes committed during the rehabilitation of Eastern Visayas after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) crippled it 5 years ago. 

“Dito ngayon sa Marawi, kaka-groundbreak lang natin after 17 months, eh hindi klaro kung saan kukunin ‘yung pondo (In Marawi, we just had the groundbreaking after 17 months, yet it’s still not clear where the money will come from). It’s like Yolanda all over again. So you don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past,” said Gutoc in a #TheLeaderIWant interview with Rappler on November 9.

Gutoc said rehabilitation efforts in Marawi should not be purely government-led. Rather, the displaced residents themselves should be given a chance to rebuild their lives, too. (READ: From Yolanda to Marawi: What gov’t must consider in rehabilitation)

“Give us that, people’s way of delivering, building back their house. It’s government-led na naman (again). We’re not learning from lessons. Co-manage it. You build infrastructure, people build their own private homes. Sabay tayo, para hindi kami useless citizenry of this country (Let’s do it together, so we won’t be useless citizenry of this country),” said Gutoc. 

The groundbreaking ceremony marking the start of the Marawi rehabilitation finally began on October 30, more than a year since Duterte declared the city liberated from terrorists on October 17, 2017. (WATCH: Marawi in 360: Inside the war zone

Failed talks with private firms and the government’s insistence on an ill-fitting joint venture agreement for the city’s reconstruction delayed the start of rehabilitation efforts in Marawi. 

Gutoc also criticized the delay in removing unexploded bombs in Marawi.

“The Philippine Army engineering battalions say nahihirapan ‘yung backhoe at ‘yung mga gamit nila para sa mga bombang kasinglaki ng tao. Pero you know, we remind [them] na kasingbilis ‘nyo binomba ‘yung location ng Marawi, the Islamic capital of the country of the Philippines, ang tagal ba naman alisin. So it was easy to decide bombing but you cannot de-bomb the area?” asked Gutoc. 

(The Philippine Army engineering battalions say they find it difficult to use their backhoes and other equipment to remove bombs as big as humans. But you know, we remind them that the speed by which they decided to bomb the location of Marawi, the Islamic capital of the Philippines, is contrary to their slow pace in removing these bombs. So it was easy to decide bombing but you cannot de-bomb the area?)

She hopes the government would soon use full-scale de-bombing devices in Marawi.

“Alisin na (Remove them already), so that you can clear up the area…and give that human potential again to rise above their suffering and their trauma and their uselessness, frustration,” said Gutoc.

Martial law is still imposed in the entire Mindanao. Gutoc strongly opposes it, as well as the proposed extension for the 3rd time of military rule over the region. She said martial law has failed to address basic human dignity issues in the southern island.

The opposition’s senatorial bet used to be part of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, but she resigned following the imposition of martial law in Mindanao and Duterte’s controversial remarks about soldiers raping women under military rule. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.