Marawi siege

Government misses out on displaced Maranaos as it rebuilds Marawi City

Froilan Gallardo
Government misses out on displaced Maranaos as it rebuilds Marawi City

NO MORE MARKET. What used to be a market is now a sprawling peace memorial park in Marawi City.

Froilan Gallardo/Rappler

'What use would these new government infrastructures and mosques be if there are no people to use them?' says non-governmental organization leader Hamidullah Atar

MARAWI CITY, Philippines – Tears welled from the eyes of Sittie Almairah Pangarungan Daud, wetting the veil of the black hijab she was wearing.

“I might lose my chance to own a house. My four children will not have a home,” Daud said at a sheltered rotunda in downtown Marawi.

Police have dispersed Daud and other internally displaced people – around 500 of them – when they staged a rally to push the Senate to pass the Marawi Compensation Bill.

“The police took our tarps and placards, and they threatened the IDPs with detention,” Marawi Consensus Group leader Drieza Liningding said.

Not wanting trouble, Drieza said, the IDPs decided not to continue the rally and went home peacefully.

The House of Representatives already passed its version of the measure, House Bill No. 9925, on September 6, providing compensation to owners for the loss and damages of their properties during the five-month fighting in Marawi City in 2017.

The Senate version is still languishing with the Special Committee on Marawi Rehabilitation chaired by Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa.

With the looming 2022 elections ahead, Marawi leaders fear that the Senate would run out of time in passing the all-too-important compensation bill.

“We have no other option but to urge the Senate to pass the compensation bill. So many property owners are depending on the bill so they can start rebuilding their houses and buildings,” said non-governmental organization leader Hamidullah Atar said.

Atar said they worry many of the senators, who are running in the 2022 elections, would be distracted because they would become busy campaigning.

An Army soldier guards one of the new government buildings to rise in the ruined city of Marawi on Nov. 24, 2021. Photos by Froilan Gallardo

He said it would be good for President Rodrigo Duterte to cite it as an urgent bill before he steps down in 2022.

In his State of the Nation Address on July 26, President Duterte cited 12 priority bills for Congress, but the Marawi Compensation Bill was not mentioned.

Daud said she and her four children have been living with their relatives since 2017, after their house and store were gutted during the five months of fighting between government troops and the Daesh-inspired Maute militants in Marawi city.

She said she had applied for a building permit and reparations with the local government of Marawi last year.

But until now, Daud said there has been no word about her application.

“I am afraid that the patience of my relatives would run out, and we will be thrown out onto the streets,” the 37-year-old Daud said.

Daud, who is separated from her husband, said she longed for the way things were before the fighting destroyed most of the buildings and houses in Marawi City.

“I had a house and a small store. My children had a bedroom where they could play,” she said.

Daud said she and her children now live in a small windowless room.

The minaret of Bato mosque was transported to this park while construction of mosque is ongoing on the other side of Marawi City on Nov. 24, 2021.

The United Nations High Commissioner for refugees in its May 2020 report said more than 120,000 residents still live in temporary shelters that dot the outskirts of Marawi City.

The report said the IDPs living in these shelters continue to face difficulty in accessing basic services and need protection.

It said among its pressing needs are water, livelihood, and information.

Khadijah Ibra, 27, said the families living in shelters in Barangay Sagonsongan, Marawi City, receive seven truckloads of water a week.

Ibra, a part-time teacher, said 215 families share the precious water among themselves.

“The water is not enough for all of us. Sometimes the trucks break down and can not deliver water,” she said.

Ibra said the lack of water heightens the risk of COVID-19 infections of the IDP families who live together in cramped, small spaces of their temporary shelters.

“We barely have enough water to bathe, wash our hands, clothes, and utensils, “ Ibra said.

To get more water, Ibra said, IDP families have resorted to buying from private contractors who deliver water to their communities.

She said five big bottles or containers at P20 each are enough drinking water for her family.

Ibra said her family of 10 brothers and their children have been squeezing into a small concrete house in Sagonsongan.

She said they signed a five-year contract with the National Housing Authority (NHA) but when it expires, they have to vacate the house.

“We have two more years to go and then we will find ourselves out on the streets,” Ibra said.

Like the others, Ibra said they applied for a building permit from the Marawi City government to rebuild their house that was destroyed in Barangay Raya Mandaya.

Until now, Ibra said they received no word as to whether their application has been approved.

Bato Mosque where the ISIS militants kept Father Teresito Soganub and other hostages during the 2017 siege is undergoing construction in Marawi City on Nov. 24, 2021.

In his visit to Marawi City on October 16, President Duterte reassured that the government “is doing its best” to complete the rehabilitation of the city before his term ends in 2022.

Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) chairman Eduardo del Rosario assured Duterte that 70% to 75% of the rehabilitation work has already been completed.

TFBM field office manager Felix Castro Jr. said that, while the construction of government projects is nearly completed, many Marawi residents have not yet started rebuilding their houses and buildings.

Castro said there is no money available to compensate the owners of the houses and buildings destroyed in the fighting.

“The compensation bill should cover the destruction of houses and buildings because the government has no budget for them yet,” he said.

Castro said more than 2,372 residents have applied for permits to rebuild their houses at their own expense.

He said the local government of Marawi has given permits to 1,113 owners, and 389 of them have started rebuilding their houses mostly in Sections 1, 2, and 3 of what has been referred to as the most affected area (MAA).

“The local government is careful in providing permits because many of the lands were found to have multiple owners,” Castro said.

Bangsamoro Transition Authority Deputy Speaker Zia Adiong said there were complications such as land ownership claims. One example is a government reclamation project in Barangay Padian where Isis militant leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute were killed. 

“How can that land have private owners when it is a reclamation project? They may have the titles for it but it is clear that the claims are dubious,” he said.

Castro said they have completed the construction of five mosques in Marawi City, including the Grand Mosque and Bato Mosque where militants held Father Teresito Soganub and other hostages in 2017.

He said 20 kilometers of the Marawi Transcentral Road have already been completed as well.

Atar said they would, however, continue to rally on the streets to air their grievances over the way the government handled the rehabilitation.

“What use would these new government infrastructures and mosques be if there are no people to use them?” he said. – Rappler.com

Froilan Gallardo is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship