MARAWI - The government should create an arbitration committee to address conflicts in land ownership that may lead to more confusion when the rehabilitation of the war-ravaged city begins, a retired Mindanao State University professor said Tuesday.
Moctar Matuan, who has published research papers on Maranao culture, said land ownership in Marawi is a complicated issue because not all rightful owners have appropriate land titles due to various factors.
“Sometimes it is part of the dowry. Sometimes pawned or sangla. Puwede ring ibenta pero sa miyembro lang ng pamilya who became a member by virtue of marriage," Matuan explained in a forum organized by non-profit group INCITEGov.
“Kapag pinabalik mo na ang mga tao dyan, magkakagulo. May mga claims and counter claims," the professor warned.
Task Force Bangon Marawi, the body leading rehabilitation efforts, said they have begun reviewing ownership claims and land titles of displaced residents of the lakeside city to identify the rightful property owners.
But Matuan believes the government should be careful in the land issue because taking away land from a Maranao is like taking away his citizenship. He said the help of community leaders and elders should be sought to help address land ownership conflicts.
“Maranaos want their land back and wish to be involved in development planning. They want to use their ancestral land rights as proof of land ownership and willing to accept payment for their damaged properties” he said.
Meanwhile, Tirmizy Abdullah, also a professor from MSU, said most of the residents in his hometown have opposed the proposed construction of a military camp in the middle of Marawi, which costs P400 million.
“Kung ibigay 'yan (fund) sa evacuees mabibigyan sila ng dignified na buhay. Bakit 'yan ang inuuna?” Abdullah said, noting that at least 140,000 evacuees are still enduring the day-to-day life in different evacuation centers.
He fears that having another camp inside Marawi will put the lives of Maranaos in danger, noting that the Islamic State-inspired Maute group was targeting the existing camp in the city, Camp Ranao, before it became a full blown siege that lasted 5 months.