(File photo)

MANILA – President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has signed a law that aims to provide monetary aid to victims of the 2017 Marawi siege.

Republic Act No. (RA) 11696, signed by Duterte on April 13 and was released to reporters on Wednesday, provides for the creation of the Marawi Compensation Board (MCB) headed by a chairperson and eight members.

At least three members of the board must be members of the Philippine Bar, preferably Maranao lawyers, who have been engaged in the practice of law for at least five years; two representatives must be members of civil society organizations where at least one of whom is either a Sharia lawyer or a Muslim traditional leader; other members must be licensed physician; certified public accountant; educator; and licensed civil engineer.

Under the law, the MCB will facilitate the tax-free payment of reparations to "qualified claimants" who lost residential and commercial properties due to the Marawi siege.

"Any person who is a lawful owner of a residential, cultural, commercial structures, and other properties as stated in the definition of terms located in the [main affected areas] or [other affected areas], and was destroyed or damaged either totally or partially on the occasion of the Marawi Siege and the heirs of those who died and legally presumed dead may file a claim with the Board for compensation..." the law read.

RA 11696 also grants private property owners a compensation based on the sum of the current market value of the land and the replacement cost of structures and improvements.

“The Board shall determine the monetary compensation and award to the lawful owner(s), whichever is the lower amount of either the fair market value of the residential, cultural, commercial structures, or other real properties or the value of its total area per story equivalent to an amount to be determined in the implementing rules and regulations of this Act,” the law read.

The law added, “In case of claims for loss or destruction of personal properties, the claimant shall present competent evidence of the loss or destruction, ownership, as well as the fair market value of the personal properties.”

The award of monetary compensation will take effect within 30 days after the MCB has approved with finality each eligible claim.

The MCB, in consultation with the Department of Finance, Department of Budget and Management, Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission, Task Force Bangon Marawi, and the National Economic and Development Authority, must promulgate the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) within 60 days after the effectivity of the law.

The law was passed by the Senate as Senate Bill No. 2420 on Jan. 21, 2022 and adopted by the House of Representatives as an amendment to House Bill No. 9925 on Feb. 2, 2022.

First step

Senator Richard Gordon said on Wednesday the signing of RA 11696 was the first step to help the Marawi siege victims recover from the “horrors” of war.

"I hope that the law will be used as a first step by victims seeking to recover from the horrors of armed conflict,” Gordon said in a statement.

The Senate's version of the law, Senate Bill No. 2420 was sponsored by Senators Sonny Angara as chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance and Ronald dela Rosa as head of Senate Special Committee on Marawi City Rehabilitation.

Senators Miguel Zubiri, Francis Toletino, Bong Go, Imee Marcos, Risa Hontiveros co-authored the measure. 

The Marawi siege, which started on May 23, 2017, was a five-month conflict between government security forces and militants with ties to the Islamic State (IS).

Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial rule until Dec. 31, 2019 to quell the terrorism in the southern part of the country.

More than 1,200 people died in the battle until government forces finally liberated Marawi City from terrorists in October 2017. (with reports from Wilnard Bacelona/PNA)