MANILA – Opposition senatorial bet Samira Gutoc on Wednesday slammed President Rodrigo Duterte after he hinted that he might just leave the rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi in the hands of rich businessmen and affluent residents in the conflict-stricken southern city.
Gutoc, who quit her post as member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission in protest of the martial law declaration in Mindanao and the President’s remarks against women, in a statement said Duterte “dishonors Marawi and the memory of those who perished in the Marawi siege, even the soldiers you sent there.”
“This is a lousy excuse for the lousy effort this administration has been giving to rehabilitate Marawi,” said Gutoc, a Marawi civic leader.
“It breaks my heart to hear the President’s words that he has really no intention to fund the much-delayed, much-sought rehabilitation of Marawi, two years after he made the order to rain bombs and pulverize my beloved city without even consulting the people who live in it.”
She also debunked Duterte’s claim that Marawi City is teeming with rich traders who can afford to rebuild their homes by themselves.
“Nanginig po ang tuhod ko nang mabasa ko po ang sinabi niyo. Para niyo na rin sinabing tinokhang niyo ang buong Marawi City dahil ayon sa inyo, may droga dito. We in Marawi take offense,” she said.
(My knees trembled after I read what you said. It’s as if you subjected the entire Marawi to “tokhang” because, as you claimed, there were illegal drugs there. We in Marawi take offense.)
Tokhang is a reference to government's controversial knock-and-plead antidrug operations linked to thousands of deaths.
“Is this now the basis of our governance and public policy? You will not bring aid to those you swore to protect and aid in times of distress just because some chose to live badly?”
Gutoc said the wounds left by the siege among Marawi residents would not heal until they could see their ruined homes rebuilt.
Speaking at a situation briefing in Pampanga following Monday’s quake, Duterte had said: “I don’t think I should be spending for their buildings.”
He was referring to residents of the city ravaged by five months of fighting between government troops and Islamic State-inspired terrorists in 2017.
“Marami man 'yang pera 'yang mga tao diyan. Every Maranao, there is a businessman. Kasali na 'yang shabu. May pera sila. The debate there is whether I would be also building the same kind that they lost. I don't think I am ready for that,” Duterte added.
(Many people there have money. Every Maranao, there is a businessman. Some are involved in the illegal drug trade. The debate there is whether I would be also building the same kind that they lost. I don’t think I am ready for that.)
“Tapos sabagay man-made naman ang calamity doon. It was bound to happen because of what they were doing there.”
(Anyway, the calamity there was man-made. It was bound to happen because of what they were doing there.)
Duterte said the government has already provided “sturdy” housing units to the city’s impoverished residents.
Until this day, the portion of the city heavily affected by the siege remains inaccessible to residents, even as critics slammed the snail-paced rehabilitation efforts of the government.
Government's rehabilitation of Marawi City broke ground in October 2018, a year since the end of the siege, with rebuilding estimated to cost P72 billion.