Marawi buildings – with
a price tag of P10B – are ready but empty
Sarimanok Sports Complex, which faces Lake Lanao, has a seating
capacity of 3,700. (photo by Bobby Lagsa)
Marawi homes remain in
disrepair as P10-B is poured into the construction of government
buildings. Displaced residents are now pinning their hopes on the
newly constituted Marawi Compensation Board. But big challenges lie
By CARMELA FONBUENA
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
March 2, 2023
bridges and the roads in Marawi City are sparkling and brand new,
but close to six years since followers of jihadist group Islamic
State laid siege to its city center, it’s still the sight of
abandoned and bombed out homes that immediately welcome visitors of
the former ground zero.
Past the Mapandi Bridge, which separated the safe zone and the
battle area in 2017, the pink walls of a newly painted commercial
building stood tall amid ruins. Nearby, a repaired house was painted
a neutral gray. They were few and far between.
The former site of battles is now called MAA or the “most affected
areas.” Life stood still here unlike the rest of Marawi City, called
the least affected areas or LAA, where residents returned and
rebuilt after the siege and new hotels have risen as well as coffee
shops that cater to visiting donors and development agencies.
There was a heavy downpour when the Philippine Center for
Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) visited the MAA in late January. The
first villages upon entry showed the presence of some residents, and
a few tricycles and private vehicles drove by. The humming sound of
electric saw and hammers hitting nails could be heard here and
But deeper into the MAA, there was hardly no one. There were new
gates, but no work was done on the rest of the property.
Marawi houses remain in disrepair. (photo by Carmela Fonbuena)
Homes in these areas survived military air strikes during the
battles. The government wanted to demolish many of them at the start
of the rehabilitation work, citing safety considerations, but
residents protested. The large graffiti of the names and mobile
numbers of owners on walls pockmarked by bullets and bombs are
declarations of ownership, an assertion of their right to decide
what they would do with the property. A few cases of illegal
demolition are pending in courts against Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM),
the agency in charge of rehabilitation.
Time has doomed the abandoned Marawi homes to decay. But not the
government buildings. They were bright and shiny. New barangay
complexes, which cost almost P14 million each, have been completed
as well as village mosques and some school buildings. The police,
jail, and fire stations were almost done.
Electricity lines were in place. There was no power yet but the MAA
is expected to be connected soon. There were sun-powered light
posts, too. It’s the water source that is problematic.
big-ticket infrastructure projects are in sector 8 and 9 of the
MAA. Government funds did not cover the rehabilitation of
private properties. (photo by Bobby Lagsa)
A total of P10.2 billion was released for the rehabilitation through
the years. The big-ticket infrastructure projects could be seen past
the rows of derelict homes, where modern public infrastructure was
built by the banks of scenic Lake Lanao. Many buildings were ready,
but without the residents, they were empty.
Samira Gutoc, an NGO leader, said the residents’ return to their
properties should have been the priority. She has been fighting for
residents’ right to return “without conditions.”
“Each house is crying for help. Naging secondary na ang bringing
back people. Di ba ‘right to return’ naman ang battlecry (Bringing
back people became secondary. Isn’t the battlecry ‘right to
return’)?” Gutoc said.
Not even 1% of MAA residents have returned
Only 100 families have been permitted to return to the MAA after
some repairs or reconstruction, based on data from TFBM, although
residents claimed a few families have returned without government
approval. It is not even one percent of over 17,793 households
displaced at the MAA during the siege.
A total of 953 families were resettled in permanent shelters and
4,916 others are still in transitory shelters elsewhere. The rest
have found temporary homes elsewhere.
visit their homes in the former battle area.
(photo by Bobby Lagsa)
PCIJ chanced upon Rashmina Macabago, 57, at her family compound in
Brgy. Kapantaran. They secured a building permit before the pandemic
hit in 2020, but they did not have the funds to repair the property.
She and a few family members arrived with some construction
materials to reinforce a post that was already tilting. They hoped
to avert any further damage to the structure.
“Pera ang problema. Naghihintay kami sa ipamimigay. Wala pa rin (We
don’t have the money. We are waiting for what they will give us.
There’s none yet),” said Macabago.
Drieza Lininding, chairman of Marawi civil society organization Moro
Consensus Group NGO, said many residents cannot afford the
requirements to secure building permits, and not all who have
permits already have the money to buy construction materials. Many
others now live far away and cannot afford to return, he said.
The Marawi City local government unit (LGU) has so far only received
2,947 applications or 16.6% of households in MAA. Even for those who
could manage to afford processing building permits, Lininding said
there were fears that residents who have repaired their homes will
no longer be eligible for compensation. They will need the assurance
that it’s not true.
P10-B poured into government infra
The accomplishments of the
rehabilitation can be seen at the banks of Lake Lanao, the heart of
Marawi’s former city center which saw the fiercest battles and where the
siege leaders were killed. All but a few old structures were demolished
to make way for new buildings. It’s a reclamation area that the city
government said is government property, but which residents are
Marawi Sports Complex has basketball courts, a running track,
and a football field. (photo by Bobby Lagsa)
The new Sarimanok Sports
Complex can seat 3,700 spectators. The running track was newly painted
and goal posts were already placed at the football field. It can host
games for the youth not just in Marawi and Lanao Del Sur province but
all over the country. Marawi Mayor Majul Gandamra’s smiling photo
appeared in a banner on a makeshift stage, hung during his enthronement
and coronation as sultan, a traditional leader. Events like this
occasionally bring residents back to the MAA, but they leave as soon as
the activities are done.
Adjacent to the sports complex
is a one-hectare convention center that can host indoor events such as
weddings of Marawi’s rich and powerful. Inside, there’s an auditorium
with 1,000 seating capacity. Workers were already installing seats. An
engineer introduced himself to PCIJ to say that visitors were not
allowed yet, but the TFBM staff sorted it out immediately.
The white and green minaret of
Bato Mosque, where the militants holed up with their hostages for
months, now stands beside the newly built Marawi museum. Bato mosque
itself has been reconstructed and has taken a modern look. The Grand
Mosque, too, has been repaired and has changed its color from green to
The rehabilitation work was
divided into 22 projects, out of which 17 were completed or almost
completed as of December 2022, according to TFBM’s December 2022 report.
The rest of the projects are to be completed by December 2023, the
More than half or 56% of the
funds went to the National Housing Authority (NHA). It cost the agency
P2.3 billion to clear bombs and debris and P3.17 billion to construct a
road infrastructure, which has an underground facility.
Mosque (front) was reconstructed to take on a modern look while
the grand mosque was repaired and repainted. Both mosques became
strongholds of the militants during the siege.
(photo by Bobby Lagsa)
The Marawi City LGU received
almost P2 billion or 19% of the funds for the construction of projects
such as the Grand Padian Central Market (P443.25 million), the Peace
Memorial Park (P312 million), the Lake Lanao Promenade (P380 million),
and 24 barangay halls.
The Local Water Utilities
Administration (LWUA) was allocated about P1 billion for the
construction of a Bulk Water System and Sewerage Treatment Plant, but
the agency has yet to begin its work. TFBM Field Office Manager Felix
Castro Jr. said they are expecting quicker action from the new head of
Marawi Compensation Board
Residents are now pinning
their hopes on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to fulfill the failed
promise of his predecessor. Marcos finally appointed the members of the
Marawi Compensation Board (MCB), a body created under Republic Act 11696
to provide compensation for the loss or destruction of properties and
loss of lives as a result of the 2017 Marawi siege.
Lawyer Maisara Dandamun Latiph,
the newly appointed MCB chairman, told PCIJ the board will fast-track
its processes. She said they are planning to conduct consultations in
the next two to three months in order to finish the implementing rules
and regulations (IRR) of the law.
The board aims to formally
begin accepting claims by May or before the siege marks its sixth year.
She recognized that big
challenges lie ahead. “We are expected to deliver our mandate to pay the
monetary compensation for the personal properties as well as
[compensation to the families] of [those who are] legally presumed dead
and missing persons. We will also recommend interventions for further
recovery and rehabilitation,” Latiph told PCIJ.
The board has an initial
budget of P1 billion for the compensation of siege victims. The maximum
amount claimants may receive is yet to be determined, she said.
Latiph, who once belonged to
the NGO community, has the support of civil society organizations. They
are counting on her to champion their causes.