Form Marawi Compensation Board before June 30 to ensure speedy recovery for affected families

Four and a half years after the end of the five-month long Marawi siege in May to October 2017, Congress has passed Republic Act No. 11696, the Marawi Siege Victims Compensation Act. The law provides compensation to those whose kin were killed, as well as those whose properties were destroyed in the Battle of Marawi between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Islamic State-linked militants.

Also entitled to receive compensation are those whose properties were demolished during the implementation of the Marawi Recovery, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program (MRRP), including the search for and recovery of unexploded ordnance. The law offers tax-free monetary compensation to the owners of residential, cultural or commercial structures within Marawi’s Most Affected Areas (MAA) and Other Affected Areas (OAA), covering 24 and eight barangays, respectively.

While acknowledging what the government has accomplished under the MRRP, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, the principal author of the Senate version on the bill upon which the enacted law was based, observed that the recovery process would not be completed if the lives of all its residents cannot return to normalcy. He said that Marawi City’s recovery and rehabilitation could proceed at a faster pace if the affected residents are given the resources they need to rebuild their homes and reestablish their sources of livelihood.

Under the law, the Marawi Compensation Board will be created to administer the distribution of compensation to the claimants. Hopefully, the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) could be promulgated even before the end of the current administration’s term on June 30, so that the intended beneficiaries could receive sufficient financial assistance that would enable them to rebuild their homes and livelihood without further delay.

If this is not done before June 30, the implementation might be set back considerably. The transition from the outgoing to the new administration will involve a change in top officials of concerned departments and agencies who are likely to sue for time in getting familiarized with the mandates of their office and in putting in place the senior officials who will work with them.

To ensure that the beneficiaries would receive adequate assistance, it would be well for concerned government agencies to start drawing the list of eligible recipients and estimate what would constitute just compensation for each covered family or household. The city government should work hand in hand with the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development which is the lead agency in the

MRRP. They could also call on the assistance of the Department of Social Welfare and Development whose professional social workers could assist in assessing the needs of beneficiaries’ given its experience in implementing the government’s specialized assistance programs.

While Senator Angara’s optimism that affected Marawi residents could “start rebuilding their homes” is understandable, it would take persistent follow-through efforts on his part — in fact, it requires a whole-of-government approach — to ensure that this is realized sooner rather than later.