MARAWI CITY – Moro groups have criticized anew the plan of the government to put up a second Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) facility in this city even as President Rodrigo Duterte, in his visit here Tuesday, January 30, assured affected land owners that they will be compensated.
Although the proposed area is within the military reservation, Duterte said residents who are occupying the site will be paid accordingly.
The planned camp will be established in a 10-hectare lot in Barangay Kapantaran, where the old city hall complex is located, and will cost the government P400 million.
“I’m planning to set a camp here, but I will pay you,” the President said during his visit to the temporary shelter site in Barangay Sagonsongan here on Tuesday, Jan. 30, referring to those who will potentially be uprooted once the construction of the camp will start.
“This is a military reservation… Whatever they (AFP) take, we will pay. Para walang gulo (to avoid trouble),” Duterte said.
At present, Marawi has Campo Ranao, home of the Philippine Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade, a unit of the 1st Infantry Division.
Campo Ranao has been an essential military installation providing logistics and other support to the soldiers fighting the extremists at the height of the Marawi conflict last year, where thousands of residents were displaced and hundreds were killed.
The presence of Campo Ranao should be enough and there is no need to build another, said Aida Ibrahim, spokesperson of Tindeg Ranao, a group of Maranao residents displaced by the fighting in Marawi.
Besides, the Duterte government must prioritize the needs of the displaced Marawi civilians instead of putting up another military camp, she said.
“His (Duterte) bias is obvious, and it’s not for the victims of the Marawi siege,” Ibrahim said Wednesday.
She said what the government must do is to ensure that the evacuees can return to their homes and not driven away from the land of their birth.
For his part, Drieza Lininding, chairman of the Moro Consensus Group, said the putting up of another military camp is a form of instilling fear among the displaced Maranaos, to suppress their right to speak out against the human rights violations they and their families experienced during the siege.
“It (army camp) is meant to silence forever the affected residents. It is the highest form of suppression,” Lininding said.
During the war in Marawi, resident had complained of lootings and illegal arrests allegedly committed by some soldiers.
In response, the Army said they will investigate the complaints filed by the civilians against some of the servicemen.
Lininding also questioned the legality of the land formerly known as the Camp Keithley military reservation, implemented through Proclamation No. 453 on Dec. 23, 1953, by then Pres. Elpidio Quirino.
The reservation was named after Pvt. Fernando Keithley, an American soldier killed by Moros in Marawin in 1903. It has since been renamed as Camp Amai Pakpak, a Maranao hero who died while resisting the Spanish colonizers in the early part of the 19th century.
Lininding said it was not clear to the Marawi people if indeed there is an army reservation since the AFP did not exert any effort to assert its ownership over it in the past causing the land holdings to be apportioned to residents.
Most of the lots located inside the reservation, he added, had already been distributed to the Maranaos, who have been holders of legal land titles for decades, through the Department of Agrarian Reform and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) regional government.