A PAINTING of a mother and child hangs on a wall at a bullet-riddled structure in Marawi City in this photo taken May 2019. — REUTERS

A PROPOSED measure that will give Marawi City residents monetary compensation for properties destroyed during the 2017 siege is a step closer to becoming a law after Wednesday’s approval by the Senate on second reading. 

Senate bill 2420 or the Marawi Siege Victims Compensation Act, which consolidates two bills as well as the House of Representatives’ version, is now up for final reading and approval before transmission for the President’s review and signature.

Under the bill, claims may be made for residential, cultural, commercial and other properties such as home appliances, jewelries and equipment that were affected during the five-month heavy firefight between government forces and extremist groups who laid siege on the city. 

The measure covers 32 barangays or villages, including 24 located in what is referred to as the MAA or main affected areas. 

“The approval of Senate Bill 2420… is the government’s recognition of its obligation to rebuild the lives and bring back the dignity of more than 300,000 Marawi siege victims and correct its failure to protect its citizens during the siege,” multi-stakeholder group Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch said in a statement on Thursday. 

“The passage of the Bill on second reading is a major step towards this recognition,” it said. 

House Deputy Speaker Mujiv S. Hataman, among the authors of the House version, said he is hopeful that the measure will keep moving and be signed into law. 

“It has been five years since the Marawi Siege in 2017, and until now many of our people there have yet to go back home, have not rebuilt their businesses, and yet to recover from the nightmare of the battle,” Mr. Hataman said in a statement in Filipino.

The compensation will be tax-free for legitimate owners or their legal heirs as provided for in the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines or the Civil Code of the Philippines. 

The amount will be assessed based on “the current market value of the land and the replacement cost of structures and improvements therein,” the bill states. 

Assessment will be undertaken by a government financial institution with adequate experience in property appraisal, or an independent property appraiser or group of appraisers accredited by the Philippine central bank. 

Implementation of the law will be led by a nine-member board, whose chairman and members will be appointed by the President. Traditional leaders within the Bangsamoro region, professionals, and civil society organizations may submit nominations.

Funding for the compensation will be sourced from the current year’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund, specifically the budget for the Marawi Recovery, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program. Future payments will be included in the annual national budget. 

“(We) reiterate and emphasize our call to push through with the bill’s passage on the third and final reading before the Congress session adjourns next week… We also call on the House of Representatives to proactively support the bill’s swift passage and for President (Rodrigo R.) Duterte to urgently sign this bill into law,” Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch said. — MSJ