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Where are the funds for the Marawi siege victims?

By Carolyn O. Arguillas
Mindanews .

Last of two parts

THE war in Marawi was from May 23 to Oct. 23, 2017. One year after the disaster is Oct. 23, 2018.

Ed Posadas, spokesperson of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), said he believes families can still avail of the assistance despite the lapse of a year, for humanitarian considerations, Marawi being a different case from other disasters as it is “human-induced.”

In fact, each of the families of seven slain victims were able to avail of the P10,000-assistance this year.

But Posadas reiterated that documents are required for submission.

He acknowledged the difficulties of relatives in presenting death certificates as most of those whose loved ones were killed in the war or are missing and are believed to have died have no death certificates to show. Most of them were unable to retrieve the cadavers or remains of their slain kin, particularly those in Ground Zero, the main battle area between government forces and the Maute Group and its allies from May 23 to Oct. 23, 2017.

He said they learned during stakeholders’ consultations that some relatives are hesitant to come forward and claim their relatives died in the war for fear they will be suspected as supporters of the Maute Group.

Government records at the end of the war in October 2017 put the death toll at 47 civilians, 168 soldiers and at least 900 Maute fighters. At the Maqbara Public Cemetery in Marawi, the remains of 282 persons are buried, awaiting the results of DNA matching with their relatives.

Some of the dead were buried in the war zone itself. It is not clear if all the remains buried there had been exhumed.

Some remains were not retrieved at all as the war raged for five months, leaving them to the elements and, according to Marawi leader Agakhan Sharief who was able to enter the war zone four times to negotiate for the release of the hostages, the dogs.

‘Not missing’

Following the release of the COA report last week, Ricardo Jalad, OCD administrator nad NDRRMC executive director assured the public that the donated funds are “not missing.”

“The reason for the low utilization of the donated funds is that the OCD was instead utilizing its Quick Response Fund (QRF) to ensure expeditious delivery of services to the victims of Marawi,” he said in a statement issued on May 31.

Jalad said the QRF was used for funeral assistance, transportation assistance, feeding programs in schools; food, non-food items, and family packs; rice augmentation for Department of Social Welfare and Development field office, procurement of various items for Evacuation Centers in Lanao del Norte such as insulators for tents, aggregates for surface hardening and TV sets; reconstruction of school buildings and support to the TFBM field office.

The General Appropriations Act provided for a budget of 10 billion pesos for the Bangon Marawi Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program (BMCRRP) for 2018.

Jalad said that as of May 30, 2019, a total of PhP 5.164 billion had been released for the BMCRRP, P4.8 billion of which was released in 2018 while P213 million was released this year for different projects, programs and activities (PPAs) “such as business and livelihood assistance, housing, land resource management, reconstruction, and health and social services.”

Jalad added that based on their discussion with Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, chair of the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM), the donated funds still in the custody of the OCD “will form part of the funding source for projects that will be implemented for the rehabilitation and recovery of Marawi City.”

Del Rosario said TFBM field office manager Felix Castro “will determine needed projects /programs on the ground and submit his request for funding to OCD. Nothing specific yet.”

Gift from China

Posadas said P10 million of the remaining P35.8-M is being earmarked for the feasibility study of the Department of Public Works and Highways to serve as “trigger for China aid program for Marawi … para sa malalaking activities” (for the major activities).

He could not provide details for the “malalaking activities”  but at the pledging session for the BMCRRP in late November last year, the Chinese government committed a grant of 150 million renminbi yuan (around P1.15 billion) for Marawi.

Chinese Premier Li Kequiang had actually announced the donation a year earlier, after meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacanang on Nov. 15, 2017, barely a month since Duterte declared Marawi “liberated from the terrorist influence.”

Li said the Chinese government will provide the billion-peso grant “for the rebuilding and improvement of livelihood in Marawi to demonstrate the support of the Chinese people.”

A Mindanews report in April quoted Li Lin, consul general of the recently opened Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Davao City, as saying Beijing wants to help rebuild Marawi to strengthen their improving ties with the Philippines.

“The support from China to participate in post-war Marawi… is a gift from the Chinese government,” he said.

Aside from the “gift,” he added that “probably there would be some cooperation projects plus private sector and state-owned companies that will invest in Marawi. That will be a win-win cooperation. It’s not money that will be lent to Philippines but Chinese companies coming in to invest (in Marawi).”

Appeal

In a statement, Drieza Lininding of the Moro Consensus Group noted that while the government assured that donated funds are not missing, “it deprived thousands of IDPs whose conditions last year could have been alleviated had the donation been used for their basic needs.”

He appealed to the government to use the donated funds “to alleviate the plight of the Marawi Siege victims as this was the purpose for the donation in the first place. “

“We demand transparency in the use of funds – whether allocated or donated – for Marawi,” he said.

Lininding said they want to know exactly how much of the P10-billion budget allocated for the BMCRRP was actually released, why only half was released to various agencies last year, and how much is the allocation for 2019.

“We demand information on how the P36.91-million donation will be used in 2019 or if part of it has been disbursed this year, how much, for whom and for what purpose?” Lininding asked.

As of May 30, 2019,  according to Posadas,  the unspent donation  still in the custody of the OCD is no longer P36.91 million but P35.8 million.

This does not include the gain on forex which was P894,184.02 as of Dec. 31, 2018. 

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