Philippine Senate Approves Bill to Compensate Marawi Residents

Froilan Gallardo and Richel V. Umel
Cagayan de Oro, Philippines
Philippine Senate Approves Bill to Compensate Marawi Residents A woman inspects her ruined home in Marawi in April 2018, nearly a year after Islamic State-linked militants laid siege to the southern Philippine city.
Jason Gutierrez/BenarNews

Thousands of Marawi residents whose homes were destroyed during a battle in 2017 between pro-Islamic State militants and the Philippine military are a step closer to receiving government aid after the Senate passed a long-awaited bill on Monday to compensate them.

The Marawi Siege Victims Compensation Bill (Senate Bill 2420) would create a “compensation board” to evaluate the claims by people who survived the five-month siege of the southern Philippine city by hundreds of Filipino and foreign militants.

Because the House of Representatives had previously passed similar legislation, lawmakers must meet to reconcile differences in the two bills before they can send a clean bill to President Rodrigo Duterte for him to sign it into law.

“The Marawi Siege Victims Compensation Bill is long overdue. I am very happy that we are finally getting closer to its passage,” Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who co-authored the bill, told reporters.

“This aims to help our countrymen who have lost loved ones’ homes and jobs during the Marawi siege,” she said. “We also want to make sure that members of the civil society will be represented in the compensation board.”

Intense fighting and bombardments destroyed much of the lakeshore city during the siege, which lasted from late May to late October 2017. As many as 1,200 IS fighters, government forces and civilians were killed. 

The board would review applications from Marawi victims – about 100,000 were forced into transitional shelters established after government troops defeated the militants.

The bill spells out the method of submitting and assessing claims, details about the nine-person board that would oversee compensation, the means of resolving conflict and addressing appeals, according to staffers involved in crafting the legislation.

The House version of the bill does not compensate for loss of life and calls for the existing Task Force Bangon Marawi to serve as the key agency that would dispense funds.

Cranes loom against the skyline of war-torn Marawi, Philippines, May 11, 2021. [Jeoffrey Maitem/BenarNews]

A Senate leader is optimistic that both sides would agree on a final version. 

Ralph Recto, the Senate president pro tempore, said that the legislation was long overdue, noting that by comparison, Marawi sustained more damage in 2017 than the city of Manila did during World War II.

While a U.S. law to help rehabilitate the Philippines took effect seven months after the last Japanese forces surrendered, Recto noted that it was only now that the Senate was passing the Marawi bill.

“In contrast, we are passing this bill 52 months after the last hunted terrorist was killed inside the last building they hid in in Marawi,” he said.

He apologized for the delay and said much of the legislative body’s work was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We owe Marawi so much that the law ordaining its rebuilding should not end up as another unfunded mandate in our nation’s cemetery of dead laws,” Recto said.

“This bill must be fully and faithfully funded as it would hasten the healing of a wounded land and a hurting people,” he said. “Compensating owners of destroyed properties is not only a matter of justice, it also injects the vital economic stimuli that will accelerate recovery.”

Since the militant siege ended in October 2017, many Marawi residents have been unable to return to their destroyed homes because clearing operations to remove unexploded ordnance are ongoing. An NGO representing them was hopeful that the legislation would finally acknowledge their suffering.

The Senate version “takes us a step closer to what we have been waiting for a long time,” said Drieza Lininding, a Marawi resident whose house was destroyed and who heads the Moro Consensus Group, a non-government organization.

“We can now start to rebuild whatever is left of our properties, our lives. It’s like we can see the light now at the end of the tunnel,” he told BenarNews. “Now they should reconcile the differences for the sake of Marawi residents.”

The Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch, an NGO that monitors rebuilding efforts, said Monday’s move by the Senate was recognition of the suffering by Marawi’s thousands of victims. 

“We are one step closer to enacting the law that will help Marawi IDPs rebuild their lives,” it said using an acronym for internal displaced persons and emphasizing that the state has the “moral and legal obligation” to ensure the city’s long-term rehabilitation.


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