By Ellson Quismorio
Malacañang, Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM), should do everything it can to “save” the more than P4 billion in unreleased Marawi rehabilitation funds from expiring, Deputy Speaker and Basilan lone district Rep. Mujiv Hataman said Tuesday.
Hataman said the potential expiration of the funds would be a “great travesty of justice” since it would “consequently deny the victims of the 2017 Marawi Siege the justice that they have been painstakingly looking for over two years now.”
“We are appealing on behalf of Marawi, of Maranaos, of its people, to preserve more than P4 billion in funds intended for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the city. Now, more than ever, the rehabilitation efforts in Marawi are under a rigorous lens of scrutiny because of delays in the past,” Hataman, former governor of the now-defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), stated.
“We should try to save this fund and use it for its intended purpose, which is to fast-track the reconstruction efforts in the ravaged city,” he said. Expiration would mean that the funds would go back to government coffers.
“Here in the House of Representatives, we are discussing the possibility of filing a joint resolution calling for the suspension of strict procurement rules over the unreleased funds, at least on the aspect of its expiration,” Hataman added.
Media reports indicate that of the P5.1 billion funds for the Marawi Recovery, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program (MRRRP) in the national budget for 2018, only 17 percent or P871.7 million had been released as of last November. Currently, there is pending legislation to extend the validity of the 2019 budget until December 2020, but no measure yet to address the expiring 2018 funds.
“We should carefully study extending the validity of the 2018 Marawi funds. Hindi kasalanan ng mga tao na hindi ito nagamit (It’s not the people’s fault that this wasn’t used). And we found out in our hearings that TFBM had lapses in procurement and implementation. So bakit ang mga taga-Marawi ang magdudusa sa pagkakamali na naman ng iba? (Why should Marawi folk suffer from others’ lapses?)” Hataman asked.
It can be recalled that an estimated 1,000 ISIS-inspired Maute Group terrorists occupied Marawi City in Lanao del Sur on May 23, 2017. Military and police took five months to drive out the enemy, with the extensive shelling and bombing leaving the Islamic City in shambles.
If, by any chance, the TFBM could preserve and still use the unreleased funds beyond December, Hataman urged the inter-government agency to “get its act together” and ensure that the funds will be used according to its purpose and on time.
“While we hear the Marawi Compensation Bill here in Congress, we hope that the TFBM would step up its game and work double time for the people of Marawi. Marami pang kailangang gawin (There’s a lot that needs to be done), and the more we delay the rehabilitation, the longer we deny the people justice,” the Basilan lawmaker said.
During the last hearing of the House Sub-Committee on the Marawi Rehabilitation on the status of the rehab efforts, lawmakers were surprised to find out that the TFBM was wanting in terms of the “big picture.”
“TFBM should work on their coordination efforts to know what its right hand is doing from the left. The people deserve speed and competence from the people in charge of the reconstruction of Marawi. Hindi na pwede yung pupunta sa hearing at sasabihin na ‘to follow’ ang information na kailangan ng mga taga-Marawi (You can’t go to a hearing and merely say that the information needed by Marawi folk would be given later),” an irate Hataman said.