By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – Meranaos were also dismayed over the absence in President Duterte’s final State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) of any sign of push for the passage of the long-pending Marawi Compensation Bill, which seeks to indemnify properties wrecked in the 2017 five-month fierce battle in the country’s lone Islamic city.
War-displaced or affected Meranaos from various callings said the President failed again in his two-hour, 46-minute SONA to mention a categorical statement about the status of the reparation bill pending in Congress since 2018.
Mr. Duterte just conveyed a related two-paragraph segment in his Monday’s speech: “Our victory in Marawi is also a testament to how the Filipino’s patriotism is far stronger than any extremist group. As I have said before, many times, there is no room for lawlessness in this country;
“Rebuilding a better Marawi remains today, still not completed. To Task Force Bangon Marawi, we need to race against time. And you have to finish the necessary work to rehabilitate the war-torn city and bring back its [displaced] families back home.”
By “victory,” the President was referring to the military’s “liberation” of Marawi from forces of Dawla Islamiya (Maute group) and Abu Sayyaf militants, who occupied the city on May 23, 2017 and slugged it out with air strikes-backed state forces in five months of battle that left hundreds of enemies, soldiers and civilians dead, and ruined barangays inside the so-called Ground Zero or Most Affected Area (MMA).
In his order to the TFBM, an interagency body tasked to oversee the rehabilitation of Marawi and recovery of IDPs, Mr. Duterte did not give a timeline – another thing that also ostensibly dismayed prominent displaced residents – or mention about the reparation bill.
“The ultimate test of (the success of) Marawi rehab is the safe and dignified return of the IDPs,” MSU Prof. Tirmizy Abdullah said in a published report, corroborating earlier complaints about repeated delays in the homecoming of evacuees since 2018.
For Amenodin Cali, chair of Kalimudan sa Ranao Foundation, Inc., “the rehab effort is a dismal failure (because) the government has backtracked on its promises and failed at consulting relevant stakeholders in planning and carrying the programs for rehabilitation.”
Prof. Abdullah and fellow affected Meranaos were expecting that the President would also finally apologize in his last SONA to the thousands of IDPs, hinting that the Chief Executive had visited the war-torn city 10 times, attended the wakes of fallen soldiers, and offered his words of sympathy with cash aids.
President Duterte, who earlier claimed that his grand maternal lineage had Meranao blood, has never consoled the largely Meranao IDPs, who receive no salaries from the government in contrast to soldiers.
A week before the SONA, Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal “Bombit” Alonto-Adiong Jr. called on Congress to pass the Marawi Compensation Bill, one of three versions of which was authored by his younger brother Rep. Ansaruddin “Hooky” Adiong.
Congress is expected to deliberate soon the national budget for 2022, and no amount for indemnification money for IDPs with lost properties could be appropriated next year unless the Marawi Compensation Bill is adopted, economic and political pundits said.
The bill requires urgency as compensation requires appropriations and its 30 to 50 billion peso proposed budget is not included in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2022, the basis for the General Appropriations Act that will be submitted soon by the Executive to the Legislative, they said. (AGM)