By Ali Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – Marawi City Majul Candamra has admitted permitting the demotion of bomb-ruined structures in three sectors of his city’s most affected area (MAA), saying the permit issuance was necessary in “a judgment call” to jumpstart the much-delayed reconstruction and rehabilitation works in the area.
The mayor clarified that the permit was meant for “public structures” such as market buildings and the like, not the private buildings of residents opposed to demolition or clearing.
Gandamra also explained that if there were private buildings included in the demolition, such case could also be a “judgment call” on the part of the National Housing Authority (NHA), a lead member-agency of task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM), which contracted demolition workers.
The mayor said the permit was issued “about three or four months ago” on the recommendation of authorities “from the ground,” particularly the NHA and the EDDMARI firm contracted to undertake the clearing operation. He said he was “surprised” that protesting residents complained “only now.”
But residents belonging to the Moro Consensus Group (MCG) argued that their delayed reaction was due to the “absence of transparency and public consultation” in the activities of the TFBM and the city government in the implementation of reconstruction and rehabilitation works in the war-torn city.
MCG leader Drieza Abaton-Lininding posted on Facebook on Monday a copy of the undated city permit signed by Mayor Gandamra and Engineers Almera M. Campong and Sirad M. Dalidig, heads of the office of building officials and city engineering departments, respectively.
Lininding in his post urged higher authorities, including the Bangsamoro autonomous government, to “stop the illegal” demolition of private buildings, especially those owned by displaced residents who have not given consent on the clearing drive. He warned about his group’s stance to hold city and TFBM officials accountable for the alleged arbitrary acts.
He also posted aerial photos showing Sectors 6, 8, and 9 of Marawi’s MAA completely cleared of both public and private structures.
The undated permit indicated that of the nine sectors in the 27-barangay MAA, “Sectors 6, 8, and 9 which are located near Lake Lanao shore were the most bombarded area since it (was) where the last stand and escape route of the remaining insurgents before they were finally defeated.”
It added that the same sectors “were also severely (hit) by bombs and other artillery weapons and explosives during the siege (by combined local terror groups on May 23, 2917).”
President Duterte on Oct. 17, 2017 declared Marawi City “liberated” from extremist militants, and created the TFBM to lead government agencies and other non-government entities to carry out reconstruction and rehabilitation works in the city.
The TBBM leadership had failed at least five times in its expressed commitment to jumpstart the recovery works and cause the return of displaced residents to their respective homes and help rebuild their damaged houses.
Gandamra said the TFBM and representatives of humanitarian groups met last week and expressed intention to start building high-standard roads and structures in the “cleared” sectors, and shape a “better Marawi.” (Ali G. Macabalang)
(NOTE: Attached are photos culled from Facebook posts of the area image of the areas covered by demolition drive and a copy of the undated permit issued by the city government, for reference or possible use.)