7 years on, residents in war-torn Marawi remain displaced, seek fair compensation

Marawi families affected by the five-month siege in 2017 appeal for adequate funds from Philippine government to rebuild their homes.
Froilan Gallardo
Marawi, Philippines
7 years on, residents in war-torn Marawi remain displaced, seek fair compensation A section of downtown Marawi remains unoccupied, seven years after Islamic State militants from Southeast Asia and the Middle East took over the lakeshore city in a failed bid to make Marawi a caliphate in the region, May 23, 2024.
Froilan Gallardo/BenarNews

Seven years after Islamic State militants laid siege to the southern Philippine city of Marawi, tens of thousands of residents remain displaced in squalid villages on the outskirts of the war-torn area.

Government compensation funds for individuals whose homes and properties had been damaged during the five month-long conflict were not enough to rebuild them, some civic groups and residents said.

The Marawi Compensation Board (MCB) – established under the Marawi Siege Victims Compensation Act of 2022 to handle claims filed by people whose homes were destroyed or damaged in the battle – had adopted the real estate assessment made by the Lanao del Sur local government as the basis for the payment, according to Drieza Liningding, a local civic leader. 

“[But] what was appraised … was already too low considering the prices [of construction materials] today,” said Liningding, head of the Moro Consensus Group, a local civic organization. 

Around 80,000 people out of the city’s 207,000-plus residents – or close to 40% of total residents – were still unable to return home and rebuild their properties, Liningding added.

Liningding said a number of civic organizations and hundreds of displaced residents had already appealed to national and local officials to look into the MCB’s basis for compensation.

Liningding himself lost his home during the fighting, which began on May 23, 2017. He counts himself among the luckier ones who managed to return to the lakeshore city with the help of his relatives.

Some residents said they rejected the government’s compensation offer, saying the MCB’s appraisal of their homes and buildings was too low and did not reflect their fair market value.

“The prices of cement, gravel and building materials have gone up since our houses were destroyed seven years ago,” Marawi resident Fatma Baraocor told BenarNews.

Baraocor said she had rejected the P200,000 (about U.S. $3,436) offer of the MCB for the repairs of her two-story house in the village of East Marinaut, where some of the heaviest fighting happened. She said the payment was not enough to pay for the repairs of her house.

Some residents also did not have property titles to prove ownership of their lands, which have been passed through generations by their ancestors.  

MCB chair Maisara Dandamun-Latiph said the board decided to adopt the real estate appraisal of the Lanao del Sur provincial government instead of Marawi’s own appraisal as the basis for the payment of destroyed properties since it offered a higher payment.

Children flock around a volunteer handing out school materials including notebooks and pencils in Marawi City, southern Philippines, May 23, 2024. [Froilan Gallardo/BenarNews]

The Philippine government allotted about P1 billion ($17.19 million) as reparations for the lives, buildings, houses and other properties lost during the five-month battle in 2017.

In January this year, MCB member lawyer Mabandes Diron said the government would pay P35,000 pesos ($601) per square meter for any concrete building destroyed or damaged, and about half of that amount for wooden houses.

Those who had lost a relative in the conflict were eligible for a compensation package valued at P350,000 ($6,014). 

The compensation board has processed the applications of around 20,000 claimants since January this year, and has paid out about P175 million ($3.07 million) in claims so far, said lawyer Sittie Raifah Pamaloy-Hassan, who oversees the dispensing of funds. 

The battle of Marawi, which ended in late October 2017, saw the largest fighting in recent memory in the southern part of the Philippines. 

During the conflict, the Philippine government fought with pro-Islamic State (IS) militants, who had launched a wave of violence in the city, shooting non-Muslims on the spot, and taking hostage dozens of civilians they used as human shields.

U.S. and Australian forces later helped the government in the fight, helping track militant movements and mark targets from the air. 

Militant leaders, led by Isnilon Hapilon, a former commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group, fought hard but were eventually killed in the conflict.

‘Still waiting’

Four years ago, resident Acmad, 45, began working as a guard for a ruined three-story building in the city’s downtown area. He is still there keeping a watchful eye over the property.

He shares a small dilapidated room with his wife and two young children. A gaping hole in a wall of their room provides a stark reminder of the bloody siege that transformed the city into a wasteland.

“The [property] owner is still waiting for the money from the government to repair this building and he has been waiting for four years,” Acmad told BenarNews as he pointed at the damage of the battle-scarred building.

“Maybe he had to wait a little longer.”


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