By Ali Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – Disgruntled evacuees have urged the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) not to confirm the interim appointment of Eduardo del Rosario as secretary of the Department of Human Settlement and Urban Development (DHSUD), pending resolution of issues allegedly involving him in the stunted rehabilitation efforts for war-torn Marawi City and its displaced residents.
“Please hear our pleas to hold in abeyance the confirmation of Secretary Del Rosario as DHSUD secretary, until controversies surrounding Marawi Rehab are resolved. We need to hold him accountable for all lies and deception he did for Marawi that resulted to sufferings of Marawi IDPs,” evacuees spokesman Drieza Abaton Lininding said in a statement over the weekend.
Lininding, who heads the Bangsamoro Consensus Group (BCS), addressed the call to leaders and members of the CA, which is reportedly set to convene and deliberate on the confirmation of Del Rosario’s appointment on March 4.
The CA is chaired by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, with Senator Cynthia Villar and Davao del Sur Rep. Mercedes Cagas as co-vice chairs.
In a Congressional post, the CA secretariat said Senator Francis Tolentino, chair of the Senate Committee on Human Settlement and Urban Development (HSUD), scheduled the deliberation on the nomination for confirmation of Del Rosario’s interim appointment for March 4.
Shortly after government forces had cleared Marawi City of militants, following five months of fighting that started on May 23, 2017, President Duterte designated Del Rosario, chairperson then of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), as head of the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM).
TFBM has been tasked to lead concerned line agencies in planning and implementing rehabilitation efforts for war-torn Marawi and its displaced residents accounted by humanitarian organizations at more than 200,000.
The Task Force was supposed to immediately come up with a master plan for various stages of reconstruction efforts, starting with clearing debris and unexploded ordnances in the city, particularly in the most affected area comprising 27 barangays.
But in the planning stage alone, Lininding said, the TFBM did not consult the evacuees or tap their representatives to help draw up measures reflective of religious and cultural norms in the city.
Lininding recalled in a video message that national cabinet members had promised to facilitate the immediate return of evacuees to MAA and tap some of the displaced residents as part of the labor force in rehab projects.
“Those promises were made in 2017. It’s almost three now, but we still have not returned to our villages…and many of us languish in evacuation centers while others agonized over lack of income,” he said.
Lininding recalled how he and other evacuees were assured by the Senate Special Committee on Marawi rehab at its ocular visit in the MAA and a hearing in Iligan City on Feb. 21 that the sentiments of evacuees and other complaints about perceived TFBM’s lapses would be taken up soon with the President in Malacañang.
Senators Christopher “Bong” Go, Ronald dela Rosa, Imee Marcos, Tolentino, and Juan Miguel Zubiri conducted the ocular inspection and on-site hearing, and took turns in delivering ,messages reassuring government attention to the delayed rehabilitation efforts.
Del Rosario was allowed to give updates on the task force’s operations – something Lininding and other IDPs also complained about because none of the evacuees was given opportunity to speak up.
Nonetheless, Lininding said, they were consoled by the categorical message of Go about the apparent lapses in the rehab efforts.
He said the TFBM chief allegedly lied at the on-site Senate committee hearing when he said the footings of houses in the MAA were intact for returning evacuees to easily determine their land locations.
“The truth is nothing has remained of many houses in the MAA as can be gleaned in published aerial photos of the cleared subdivisions in the area,” Lininding said.
Lininding’s group and even some officials of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) and line agencies of the Bangsamioro autonomous government have demanded for the resignation of Del Rosario as head of TFBM since late last year.
The resignation call was premised on alleged failure of Sec. Del Rosario to meet timelines in the master plan, and in the accounting of billions of pesos in donations and official allocations for Marawi rehab and the IDPs.
On Saturday night, a relative by affinity of the President, reacting to Facebook posts about the upcoming CA hearing, disclosed having obtained documents showing an alleged anomaly in the purchase of heavy equipment for clearing of debris in Marawi City. The source said the purchase involving several millions of pesos was done without required public bidding at the behest of Del Rosario.