COTABATO CITY—The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao wants President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to give lands in war-torn Marawi back to the Maranaos by awarding them “substantial portions” of a colonial military settlement in that city.
On Tuesday, the ARMM Legislative Assembly passed Resolution No. 152, asking the President for “the disposition of the substantial portion of the Military Reservation in Marawi City, through (issuance of Presidential) Proclamation in favor of qualified residents or for Socialized Housing.”
Maguindanao Assemblyman Khadafeh Mangudadatu, author of the resolution, said a rehabilitation program for Marawi residents displaced by the intense armed conflict last year should also include policy measures ensuring them the regularity of land tenure.
Mangudadatu noted that most of the Marawi land area has been partitioned by past Presidential Proclamations from the time of President Elpidio Quirino in 1953 to the start of President Fidel Ramos’s term in 1992.
Maranao professionals based here have lauded the move, and some of them said Duterte could easily do this by the stroke of the pen, since there is now a law allowing long-time residents of military reservations to apply for family ownership of home lots for residential purposes.
“Presidential Proclamation 453 has reserved 66,671,625 square-meters of public domain situated in Camp Keithley, now Camp Amai Pakpak, City of Dansalan [now Marawi City] for military [use],” part of Mangudadatu’s resolution read.
The same proclamation had, in effect, officially ended the US colonial forces’ occupational rights of the city’s erstwhile Camp Keithley when the Philippine military tenure of the camp started in 1946, under military governor Colonel Luis Marohombsar, a Maranao hero of the World War II Death March in Bataan.
Last year, Ghazzali Jaafar, first vice-chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, also told a delegation of foreign journalists that he had asked the President to give Marawi lands back to the Maranao people.
Camp Keithley has since been renamed Camp Amai Pakpak, after the leader of the local resistance against American colonial forces at the turn of the 20th century.
But ARMM Environment Secretary Kahal Kedtag said a relocation survey had to be conducted, because some say the military reservation referred to in PP 453 could be wider than the present-day Camp Amai Pakpak.
A Maranao official of the region’s Land Management Bureau, requesting anonymity, said it was “about time that those areas are given back to the Maranaos.”
Of the city’s original total area, the government has classified 6,667.16 hectares as a military reservation through Presidential Proclamation 453, issued by Quirino on Dec. 23, 1953, or the week before his presidential term ended on December 30 that year.
Then-President Carlos Garcia also issued PP 806 setting aside 999.356 hectares for the Mindanao State University (MSU) campus on Dec. 4, 1961, also the month when his term ended.
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 Dec. 3, 1974, President Ferdinand Marcos signed PP 1354, putting aside 803.14 hectares of the city’s area under the control of the state-run National Power Corp. for the development of hydroelectric power facilities.
Ramos, for his part, also signed PP 992 on June 26, 1992, allocating 3.0697 hectares for the development of the Lanao Park and Library.
In all, past Presidents had partitioned a total of 8,644.1836 hectares for different purposes, but the actual total land area of Marawi City is only 8,396 hectares, according to the original survey records of the Bureau of Lands, now LMB. This means that those Presidential Proclamations exceeded the city’s land area by 248.1836 hectares.
The Charter of Dansalan (Commonwealth Act 592 of 1940) had declared the city’s commercial and agricultural lands as those that formed part of the “Property of the United States of America” under the Public Land Act. Unfortunately, officials said, such colonial assertion has not been repealed by the charter of Marawi (Republic Act 1552 of 1956).