P1B for Marawi victims, a cruel joke (2)

Throwback. Through our pen, we appealed to the government several times to create a Truth Commission to investigate the ruination of Marawi City so that it may pick up one or two ideas on how to combat urban terrorism and be ready to deal with a similar tragedy.  But our pleas fell on deaf ears.

Our unspoken purpose was to prove that while the siege triggered the war, the heavy loss of lives and damage were inflicted by government forces. And this could have been minimized if the government had adopted an open mind about solutions to the impasse. There were overtures for the surrender of the much-outnumbered and outgunned rebels, but these were rejected by the government. For what reason?

This column does not buy the claim of critics that it was to justify the imposition of martial law, which did happen, or the wild indictment that the government wanted to test the modern new armaments it had acquired from foreign countries, including fighter jets and pilot training.

Marawi presented an opportunity for the experiment. It was not likewise the bravado of army centurions who wanted to show that their forces were capable of fighting in dense forest jungles where they were trained and in the jungle of high-rise urban structures. These are innuendoes and claims which could have been validated or invalidated through investigation.

What was proven was the recklessness, if not sheer incompetence, of our jet fighter pilots who bombed places kilometers from their intended targets. In our barangay, Tolali, there was a disastrous mis-hit of a target that killed about 10 Marines, which some Maranaws described as the law of “morka” or karma in action.

Why resuscitate these tales? It is to show that the heavy damage was caused by government forces which, by the dictates of any law of any society, be it international or international human rights, moral, divine, including the Code of Hammurabi and Kalantiaw, the culprit is obliged to pay for the damage it inflicted. The amount of reparations should be reasonable or at least proximate to their claim.

That is why when the Department of Budget and Management dangled the amount of P1 billion as compensation for Marawi victims, it was met with disbelief, which led to a spirited protest. Unkind words were expressed by victims whose consciences were revolted. They could not believe that the policymakers could be so insensitive to the cry for justice by a segment of Philippine society that had suffered historical injustice from foreign invaders and their own government. The radicals among them cried state terrorism — no wonder the fire of secession and independence still burns in the hearts of many Moros. The situation tends to ignite more hostility towards the government.

We hate to picture a situation where about half of the validated claims of victims will be paid and the other half unpaid after five years when the compensation stops. God forbid we will see dystopia and brewing sedition or revolution in our midst, and there is no need for millions in confidential and intelligence funds to predict its occurrence.

The deliberations in the House of Representatives, which were uploaded on social media, were revealing. Rep.  Mujiv Hataman of the lone district of Basilan, a veteran legislator who expresses his views vividly with his command of the national language, was in his element asking scathing questions of the sponsor of the budgetary bill, Congresswoman Stella Quimbo.

Very clearly, she was groping for facts, figures, and explanations from officials of the Department of Budget to answer Rep. Hataman. Even with masteral and doctorate degrees tucked in her belt, she was no match for Hataman, who displayed Socratic maieutic in fielding questions.

In another session, the region’s favorite son, Rep. Zia Alonto Adiong, bewailed the inequity and injustice of proposing only P1B for the Marawi victims. He got the DBM’s commitment to find a way to increase the Marawi compensation budget.

And so we pray our policymakers will open their hearts and minds to the clamor for increased appropriations for the Marawi victims in the name of justice, equity and magnanimity.



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