MARAWI CITY—Reporters here recently asked Lanao del Sur Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong to help them identify areas in ruins in this city from an array of photographs.
Alonto, the spokesman of the Provincial Crisis Management Committee, admitted, after a long pause, that he could hardly name them, as shown by the images appearing in current camera shots.
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, who has often said that he wanted to "correct the historical injustices done to the Bangsamoro," is seen as the first Philippine President to give back to the Maranaos the birthright of land possession, which they have lost to the government since the colonial periods.
Mr. Duterte also traces a Maranao ancestry from his maternal bloodline—and, in fact, his Muslim appointees to top posts are from Lanao: Director General Gene Mamondiong of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Secretary Abul Khayr Alonto of the Mindanao Development Authority, and Dabs Mama-o, the Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers and Muslim Concerns.
The President may also have the last ink to put an end to a series of public land policy proclamations by Philippine Presidents from as far back as 1934 through 1992, which have subdivided Marawi for some vital interests and purposes.
According to the records of the old Bureau of Lands, now the Land Management Bureau, Marawi City has a total area of 8,396 hectares.
During a recent meeting here, Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao submitted copies of LMB records to the Presidential Task Force on the Rehabilitation of Marawi created by Mr. Duterte.
“Practically, there's nothing left (of the city's land area) to the Maranaos,” Hataman told the Manila Standard
ARMM Environment Secretary Hadji Kahal Q. Kedtag said the regional Department of Environment and Natural Resources office has preserved original copies of the documents from a sequence of older sources.
Of the city’s original total area, the government has classified 6,667.16 hectares as a military reservation under Presidential Proclamation 453, issued by President Elpidio Quirino on Dec. 23, 1953. It was apparently a “midnight” executive issuance, since Quirino's term officially ended on Dec. 30, 1953, after he started as a constitutionally succeeding Vice President with the death of President Manuel Roxas in 1948.
Also toward the end of his term, President Carlos Garcia issued PP 806 on Dec. 4, 1961, to set aside 999.356 hectares of Marawi for the Mindanao State University school campus, following the enactment that year of Republic Act 1387, the MSU charter authored by Senator Ahmad Domocao Alonto.
Three months before he died in a plane crash on March 17, 1957, President Ramon Magsaysay signed PP 375 on Dec. 26, 1956 to apportion 171.45 hectares in Marawi for the Lanao Provincial Capitol.
On May 22, 1959, Lanao was divided into Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur, which has retained the Marawi-based capitol.
Still, on Dec. 3, 1974, President Ferdinand Marcos signed PP 1354, putting 803.14 hectares in the city under the control of the state-run National Power Corp. for the development of hydroelectric power facilities.
President Fidel Ramos then signed PP 992 on June 26, 1992, allocating 3.0697 hectares for the development of the Lanao Park and Library.
In all, the total area of the apportioned parts of Marawi is 8,644.1836. This means 248.1836 hectares of the lands divided by those presidential proclamations do not actually belong to the city, which has a total area of only 8,396 hectares, per its original survey in the records of the Bureau of Lands.
Mas Yahya, a veteran journalist and local publisher, asked: “Why did our forebears agree to turn our lands in Marawi City or Lanao into a Military Reservation? Who was in collusion [with the government]?”
Around 300,000 people have been displaced since pro-ISIS militants, said to be of different nationalities, occupied the city on May 23 and seized at least 80 people, including a Catholic priest.
Government security forces are into the third month of heavy ground offensives and air attacks on Marawi, but extremists in urban battle fashion have been evasive, moving from one house or level to another. (To be continued)