P1B for Marawi victims a cruel joke (1)

I beg my readers’ kind indulgence for using this column as a platform to air our grievances.

This is something personal to us, and it is my moral obligation to add my voice to the public indignation sweeping a part of Morolandia. For transparency and disclosure, my family was a victim of the war and is seeking compensation for the damage to our precious possessions.

Having said that, as the national budget deliberations for 2024 draw to a near conclusion, the public discourse in Morolandia on the compensation for the 2017 Marawi Siege victims heightened. It’s the issue much discussed in public fora, coffee shops, and social media platforms of Muslims.

The Moro attention is largely riveted to the budget deliberations in the House of Representatives, where the budget bill originates by provision of the Constitution. Social media likewise reported the hearing conducted by the Oversight Committee for the Marawi Compensation Law jointly chaired by Senator Ronald dela Rosa and Rep. Zia Alonto Adiong.

According to reports, P1 billion is proposed in the 2024 budget for compensation, which is the same amount appropriated in the current budget, alarmed resident victims. They have reason to fear that P1 billion is becoming the appropriation template for the ensuing years.

The Marawi Compensation Board or MCB, created to process, approve and pay legitimate claims, will fold the tent and become a functus oficio in 2028 because the law provides for a five-year life span. Let’s do the math. If the budget is not increased, the aggregate appropriation for Marawi victims will only be P5 billion, which is ridiculously insufficient vis-a-vis the number of victims and the magnitude of their claims.

From an unofficial report, we gathered that “as of 18 September 2023, there were 75 death claims, 74 structural claims, 1,858 other properties claims, and 4,041 multiple claims. Hence, there were 6,048 claims as of the latest report by the in-take team from July to September.  (And) 362 claims have been evaluated or are ready for final deliberation.”

The claims statistics are increasing exponentially by the day, with the list of claimants getting longer. The MCB asks for something like P10 billion or more as an aggregate ballpark figure to compensate all the victims.

The sparse appropriation has triggered unkind comments from citizens calling the proposed amount outrageously deficient, cruel jokes and insulting the victims. While the public is amused by the stories in tri- and social media on funding for projects that are less urgent — like the millions needed for the confidential and intelligence funds of agencies to address “kuno” (allegedly) the threat of terrorism — here we have a situation where the threat of terrorism is real.

Our security and intelligence authorities will tell you that the remnants of the ISIS-affiliated Maute Dawliyah Islamia group are just around the corner, engaged in sporadic hit-and-run guerrilla ambushes to make their presence known. Terrorist cells are confirmed to be existing in the hinterlands of Morolandia. The disgruntled victims of the Marawi war are easy prey for recruitment by the dissidents.

There is no denying the depth and scale of the damage sustained by the Marawi victims of the war. The whole world was watching on their television sets for months the daily telenovela-like bombing of the city in what Confucious described as “burning the house to catch a rat.” We have written numerous published articles pleading for cessation of the bombing, but the thrashing by state authorities continued.

We note with gratitude the public expression of support by Senator De la Rosa, chair of the Special Committee on Marawi Rehabilitation, who spent years studying at the Mindanao State University in Marawi City, along with Muslim Senator Robinhood Padilla. Senator Risa Hontiveros, in her recent trip to Marawi, saw for herself the progress of the claims processing and has likewise committed support. The list of senators and House representatives joining the chorus of support is getting longer.

(To be continued)



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *