Marawi compensation (2)

While the P1 billion is hilariously and grossly insufficient vis a vis the scale of damage sought to be compensated, we still welcome it.

September 13, 2022

A day after our article about the Marawi compensation being in limbo saw print, there was a news release from government-controlled media, Philippine News Agency, about it. It reported, “P1 billion earmarked to compensate Marawi property owners.” We chorused “wow” that was fast. If any legitimate issue is attended swiftly by government policymakers, it will be a giant step toward good governance — a government that is sensible and sensitive to the needs of the governed. But we know that the timing was just a coincidence. No way does government act that fast.

The report quoted Congressman Johnny Pimentel of Surigao del Sur as saying that, “The amount of P1 billion has been set aside to compensate residents of Marawi City who lost private properties during the 2017 siege… The allocation… (is) included in the 2023 national budget… lodged in the P31-billion calamity fund for next year… The reparation fund is pursuant to the Marawi Siege Victims Compensation Law of 2022, or Republic Act 11696… It will be used to provide tax-free compensation to ‘lawful owners of residential, commercial and other properties, including cultural structures, destroyed or damaged, either totally or partially… It also covers owners of mosques, madaris, schools, colleges, hospitals and other health facilities.’”

The news was received warmly with jubilation by residents. But the emotion was ephemeral. This was replaced with indignation over the amount being proposed. How insincere could government be to allocate the measly sum of P1 billion when the damage is so huge. Past television footages told it all. Some expressed negative comments, saying government mistook resident-victims for dunces and mendicant gypsies or street beggars begging for crumbs of the budget. In fact, the ball park figure for the damage runs to about P40 billion. How can they appropriate only P1 billion?

Our worry was somehow assuaged by another report that the said P1 billion constitutes only an initial amount, not the whole compensation package. I likewise received a text message from my son, Sultan Maclin, who is in contact with Congressman Zia Alonto-Adiong relieving our worry. According to the Maranaw representative whose district includes Marawi City, that amount will not be used to cover the administrative costs and expenses required for the convening of the Compensation Board, which the law requires to be organized as a prequel to payment of compensation. The latter should have a budget distinct from that of the compensation fund. That assertion should be pursued assiduously by Congressman Alonto-Adiong. He should follow up likewise the organization of the Compensation Board which was started, and whose member-nominees were already vetted by the Task Force Bangon Marawi then chaired by former Housing secretary Eduardo del Rosario.

On the side, video clips circulating among Moro netizens show young newbie Congressman Alonto-Adiong showing his moxie, clashing verbally with veteran legislators. But while new in Congress, he is not a greenhorn in the art of legislation. He has been exposed and is and adept in regional legislation with his experience in the Regional Parliament. He is not all words. He walks the talk. It’s a relief for us semi-retired Moro cause advocates to see an able, articulate and outspoken new generation of Moro leaders pursue our dream for an egalitarian society cleansed of bigotry, religious, cultural and social biases. We doff our hats off to Congressman Alonto-Adiong and may his genre thrive.

And so our crusade continues. While the P1 billion is hilariously and grossly insufficient vis a vis the scale of damage sought to be compensated, we still welcome it. It delivers the message that the need of the internally displaced persons or “bakwits” is being attended to. Aid might be slow in coming, but steps are being taken. And that thought goes a long way in uplifting the sagging morale of the evacuees who continue to languish in the temporary shelter where government assistance is thinning out fast.

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