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Transitional justice (2)

Mags Z. Maglana .


THE actual and symbolic effects of the Marawi war cannot be treated as if it were a matter of responding to disaster. The parallelisms between the Marawi war and the burning of Jolo are not only in terms of the damage wrought and the consequences to the locality and the population, but also to their rallying function.

Officials under the Duterte administration have mentioned that they do not want to repeat the mistakes committed in Tacloban in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda. But while Marawi and Tacloban may be considered similar in terms of the extent of damage sustained from disasters, the former cannot be approached by only tweaking and applying responses made to the latter. Thus, lessons from Tacloban’s rehabilitation could be useful; but cannot be the only reference. Marawi is distinct not only because its destruction was human-induced and could be triggered again but also because the people of Tacloban were not kept out of their residences for nearly a year (and thus not kept seething in growing anxiety and mounting anger).

From the pronouncements of the TFBM leadership, it seems all that are called for are a “development plan” that would utilize sound land use and urban planning parameters and security forces that would keep out armed groups.

But Marawi is not just about planning for development and maintaining security, which are staple concerns of most localities in the country. Marawi would have to be about systematically addressing human rights violations, legitimate grievances, and possible marginalization due to land dispossession, and preventing the rise of another historical injustice. To use a contemporary phrase that communicates both rationale and viability, Marawi is “TJ-able.”

The details of operationalizing TJ-DWP will obviously have to be fleshed out by Marawi stakeholders. But TJ-DwP can be a handy reference to mandated bodies such as TFBM in the consideration of a variety of measures and mechanisms for concerns that remain unaddressed nearly a year to the day the conflict openly broke out.

Meranaws and the rest of Philippine society need to know the truths about the five months of war. The victims have to be identified and memorialized, and the survivors recognized. Justice will have to be meted out for the different infractions committed against civilians and various parties held accountable when and where possible. Combinations of concrete and symbolic forms of reparation for survivors and the larger community will have to be put in place. Beyond installing another military camp, earnest measures to ensure the nonecurrence of another Marawi of May to October 2017 are called for.

RMSM criticized what it considered a lack of civilian participation in the development of the plans for Marawi’s rehabilitation and recovery. Samira Gutoc, Meranaw woman leader and organizer of the Ranao Rescue Team, has been consistent in advocating for civilian voices to be heard, respected, and responded to at the height of the Marawi crisis and its aftermath. Her group and other organizations submitted a position paper to the Senate recommending the amendment of the executive order covering TFBM to make the membership of civilian leaders mandatory.

RMSM also charged that “the plans neither bear the stamp of our will nor reflect our culture” and that the “mechanics and implementation are not clear to us.” The group reacted to the announcement that the Bangon Marawi Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Program (BMCRRP), which TFBM is tasked to develop and implement, was only confined to areas outside the 24 barangays regarded as the most affected area or MAA.

In a report by Mindanews, Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, head of TFBM and the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, announced in early April that the Bangon Marawi Consortium (BMC) will undertake the Ground Zero development plan that will cover the 250-hectare MAA, which is home to an estimated 27,000 families, although only 11,163 of them are considered homeowners.

BMC is led by a company owned by the Chinese government and initially composed of five Chinese and four Filipino businesses. One of the Filipino firms later opted not to join the consortium. The BMC proposal will have to be subjected to the “Swiss Challenge” described by Secretary del Rosario as a faster “hybrid mode of public bidding.” Only after the winning developer has finished planning, debris clearing, and site development will the IDPs from MAA be able to rebuild, a milestone projected to take place in early 2020.

The negative reactions are understandable. Since the establishment of the TFBM, the BMCRRP had been the focus of planning, with many groups undertaking initiatives to enable IDPs and the local governments of Marawi and Lanao del Sur to prepare for and influence plan preparation. For the displaced women and men of Marawi to learn only much later that there is another plan, that an external group will lead it, and that their hopes to return are ultimately subject to it is infuriating.

Secretary del Rosario further explained in another news that the initial development plan is intended to be “cascaded to all sectors” as a “top-bottom-up process” and alleged that the RMSM “refuses to listen, understand and accept” it.

However, the notion of ‘cascading’ only accentuates the power imbalance and dynamics against which the Meranaw are chafing. Drieza Lininding, chair of the Moro Consensus Group, in a February 2018 social media post lamented in reaction to guidelines released by the National Housing Authority that it is “as if we don’t exist and deserve any rights over our land and properties.”

Among the defining principles of the TJ-DWP pillar right to compensation is the satisfaction of the aggrieved. Thus, it is not up to the TFBM alone to decide whether its explanations are adequate and sufficient. It will have to be worked out with those affected. This does not mean giving in to whim and caprice. But it will necessitate going beyond the usual practices undertaken in ‘normal’ times of relative peace and order to bring the displaced into the circle of discussion and deliberations and address their sense of exclusion and powerlessness to which they are obviously reacting.

The developments in March and April 2018 related to planning for Marawi have made prospects more opaque and have further heightened IDP apprehensions.

Nevertheless, any rehabilitation and reconstruction perceived to be cloaked in subterfuge will not work and more so in a highly-charged setting; and accusing IDPs of recalcitrance will not reduce but heighten their sense of being ‘othered’ instead. Indeed, these sound like more abuses that will feed grievances and are the makings of another historical injustice, which will be viewed as such when Mindanawons and other Filipinos look back on this time.


(Mags Z. Maglana is a Mindanawon who has worked in various capacities over the past 30 years for peace, good governance, sustainable development, and the promotion of human rights. She is one of the convenors of Konsyensya Dabaw. Please email feedback to


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TREND MAKER. Mindanao Gold Star Daily was established in 1989 to set ablaze a new meaning & flame to the local newspaper business. Throughout the years it continued its focus and interest in the rural areas & pioneered the growth of countryside journalism.

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