Press Release
January 31, 2022


Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto
31 January 2022

Mr. President, my dear colleagues:

By proportion of structures destroyed, Marawi sustained more damage in 2017 than Manila in 1944.

The U.S. Philippine Rehabilitation Act, however, took effect in April 1946, 7 months after Japan surrendered, and 14 months after the liberation of Manila from stubborn and savage Japanese resistance.

In contrast, we are passing this bill 52 months after the last hunted terrorist was killed inside the last building they hid in Marawi.

Manila, flattened as Warsaw was, by 1950 was long a beehive of reconstruction. Even the Old Congress building, resurrected from its pulverized state, was slowly shedding its scaffoldings.

The delay in the passage of this bill is no fault of ours. On bills of this magnitude and sticker price, the operative rule is Executive proposes, Congress disposes. The latter cannot simply act on what has not been advocated.

But it is wrong to attribute the holdup to endemic bureaucratic inertia alone. For one, there is the COVID pandemic, a threat so existential that it must be first attended to.

The other is that the Marawi compensation is an extremely nuanced project with historical, legal, cultural complexities like an intricately designed malong.

I am glad, Mr. President, that this bill reconciles all of these in one textured tapestry of a law that is at the same time grand and granular.

The sensitivity to issues has packed the 439 lines in the enrolled bill with specificity, proof that the authors have defused it of policy ordnances which could be tripped by wrong interpretation of an unclear text.

This bill spells out the method of submitting and assessing claims, the mechanism of compensation, the management--which is under a nine-person Board, their mandate, the means of resolving conflict and addressing appeals.

Even priority areas are enumerated.

On this, I doff my hat to Senator Sonny, who might end up as the second, and better, Angara to lead this chamber, Cabinet officials led by Housing Secretary del Rosario, the local governments in Marawi and Lanao del Sur, a civil society which has more colors than a tubao, and the BTA.

While the bill strives to be comprehensive, it is by no means a paint-by-numbers guide when the time comes to implement it.

There is, for one, the missing puzzle which has to be supplied by future Congresses - and that is the money to fund the claims to be made by victims.

A blueprint can only be as good as the money supplied to purchase the bill of materials.

As I've said in my sponsorship speech, we owe Marawi so much that the law ordaining its rebuilding should not end up as another unfunded mandate in our nation's cemetery of dead laws.

This bill must be fully and faithfully funded as it would hasten the healing of a wounded land and a hurting people.

It is the missing link in making Marawi better than it was before.

In fact, the idea this bill espouses should have been the cornerstone of Marawi's rehabilitation, and not a mere afterthought. This should have been the foundation, not the capstone.

If this had been done earlier, Marawi would have risen from the ashes faster.

Compensating owners of destroyed properties is not only a matter of justice, it also injects the vital economic stimuli that will accelerate recovery.

With this bill, work on post-conflict restoration runs on two tracks--private and public--instead of the latter pretending that it can do it alone.

In whatever calamity which has visited this blighted land, sweat equity of the victims has time and again been proven as a durable construction material.

The cost of relegating the people to mere spectatorship is high. If plans are devoid of any buy-in from the citizenry, the end result may not be to their liking. Who was it who said that people's consent is an important construction material?

Mr. President, my dear colleagues:

History teaches us that after the last shot has been fired, armies can be disarmed, but it will be wrong to demobilize a people raring to repair the ravages of war.

The creation of the Marawi Compensation Board, as this bill seeks, essentially democratizes the rehabilitation fund and ends state monopoly of its use.

But for the reparations project to succeed, it must be adequately funded.

So this is my memo to the 24 men and women who will sit here in July.

Please remember that what the nation owes Marawi goes beyond the value of properties destroyed and lives lost during the May 2017 siege.

In the first place, we have an outstanding debt to this city long before the first bomb fell.

In assessing our collective debt, we should examine Marawi's important contribution not only to the development of Mindanao, but to our nation as well.

Whatever that amount is, I am sure that it will only be a fraction of the immeasurable value of the "knowledge and power" Marawi has given, and is giving, to Mindanao.

Marawi is the capital of the province where Lanao Lake is, the source of about a third of Mindanao's power supply.

It is also where the main campus of the Mindanao State University, the UP of the South, is located.

In short, Marawi is both a source of light and enlightenment.

To those who will remain here, to those who will return, please never ever forget that.

I vote "Yes" to this bill.

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