Marawi, a convalescing phoenix

So much depends on where to find funding for the recently legislated Marawi Victims Compensation Bill.

August 12, 2022

There are milestones that convey profound messages that deserve narrating. They are etched in our minds because of their grandeur and significance. It is not every day that these happen. And we tend to memorialize them through tales and folklore for the interest of the next generation.

The enthronement of lawyer Majul Usman Gandamra, the newly-reelected third-term city mayor, as sultan a fortnight ago in Marawi City, is nothing less than momentous. The choice of the venue was significant. It was held in the so-called ground zero where the Islamic State-affiliate Maute-Abu Sayyaf Group held out their last stand, and was suppressed only after the fiercest fighting in the five-month siege of the city. The Sarimanok Gymnasium and Sports Complex where it was held is the same spot where Omar Khayyam Maute and Ispilon Hapilon, leaders of the rebels, were felled by a sniper’s bullet at dawn, marking the liberation of the city.

The sports complex consists of a race oval with a track that is near the Olympic kind, a covered gymnasium and a stadium that can accommodate thousands of spectators. It faces the mystic Lake Lanao, which the City Tourism Office plans to market for aqua sports enthusiasts, like a banca race, windsurfing, water skiing and other similar water sports. The cool breeze of the lake, which many compare to Lake Tahoe that is known for its clear and crisp water, brings relief to athletes and navigators. Recently, it has also become the venue for sports competitions and the celebration marking the 82nd founding anniversary of the city. This could be a choice venue for other grand celebrations not only of city residents, but also of the surrounding municipalities, which can earn revenue and help populate the city’s barren part.

The complex, one of the many public structures, signals that the city, like the phoenix, is on its way to rise and will soon flutter its wings to eventual recovery. In fact, on any given day, one sees tourists, domestic and foreign, who want to see the magnitude of the devastation. The most visited place is the View Deck where a minaret with bullet holes is displayed as a war memorial. On a clear cloudless summer day, one can see from the deck the panoramic view of the mystical Lake Lanao and the lakeside towns with the sky adorned by towering minarets of beautifully designed mosques testifying to the religiosity of the Maranaw. It is a sight that beckons tourists.

The construction of various public infrastructure, horizontal and vertical, is not fully completed. But give a few months and they will be operational; that is, if the new occupant of Malacañang will extend the life of the Task Force Bangon Marawi and its concomitant funding. Which brings us to the inevitable question: How soon can the residents return to their homes, which were leveled to the ground by aerial and ground bombardment by government troops? What good are those infrastructures if the residents cannot rebuild their homes and enjoy benefit from them?

So much depends on where to find funding for the recently legislated Marawi Victims Compensation Bill. It is their lifeline toward restoring their status quo ante bellum. This was a legacy of the Duterte administration, which brought a splatter of hope to residents, but was left hanging by the lack of provision for funding. Now, the law is in limbo. Nobody is lifting a finger toward its implementation. When the law was finally approved, we warned of false hope. Every day that a disaster happens somewhere in the country, the need of the Marawi victims is being pushed to the backburner. The new dispensation has been ominously silent about this problem.

As we have raised in past columns, if Congress found funding to support the law giving compensation to the martial law victims, why can’t they do it for Marawi? The need for funding is an acute need. The solons cannot be insensitive and thick-skinned. Or, are they?

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