Financial aid readied for Marawi siege victims

By Edu Punay and Rainier Allan Ronda

MANILA, Philippines –  The Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Justice are working on the financial assistance that can be provided to the victims of the Maute terrorist group in Marawi City.

This developed as National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director Ricardo Jalad said the number of people displaced in Marawi continues to rise as the clashes between government forces and the Maute group drag on.

“If the number of IDPs (internally displaced persons) really swell, (we will consider) setting up tent cities. So the national incident management team deployed in the area is now looking at that possibility,” Jalad said.

The DSWD said it will distribute on June 23 and 24 an initial P1,000 of the total P5,000 cash assistance to individuals displaced by the ongoing fighting and are currently staying in evacuation centers or with friends and relatives in Iligan City and nearby towns in the region.

For Muslim IDPs, the P1,000 assistance is meant for them to purchase more suitable food when they break their fast on the eve of June 26, the end of Ramadan.

As of yesterday, the DSWD said the total number of families affected by the Marawi crisis has reached 69,055 or 336,783 individuals.

As for the remaining P4,000 cash aid, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said this will be released once families have been allowed to return to their homes.

“We are also preparing other actions to help them when they resume their lives in their communities – other DSWD programs will be made accessible to them,” Taguiwalo added.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, for his part, has tapped the Board of Claims, which is in charge of the government’s victims compensation program under Republic Act 7309, to conduct information dissemination drive and processing of applications of victims of the Marawi siege.

“The state, through the Board of Claims, can show its genuine concern for the victims and impart to them that the government is not indifferent to their plight. The team will provide proper venue where eligible claimants can seek compensation through administrative procedure,” the DOJ said in an advisory.

The processing of applications was held at Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City, where arrested members of Maute are detained, and supervised by DOJ Undersecretary Reynante Orceo.

Under the law, the board may approve and award the maximum amount of P10,000 or the amount necessary to reimburse the claimant for expenses incurred for hospitalization, medical treatment, loss of wage, loss of support or other expenses directly related to the injury, whichever is lower.

The compensation award is without prejudice to the right of the claimant to seek other remedies under existing law.

Cavite Rep. Strike Revilla has also filed House Bill 2237 (Civilian Compensation Act of 2016) to compensate civilians killed or injured in a crossfire between rebels and soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The bill states that in case of death, the victim should be paid P30,000. It also proposed a reimbursement for expenses incurred for hospitalization, medical treatment, loss of wage and the like in case of injury, among other forms of assistance.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has condemned the ongoing violence in Marawi as it called out the terrorists for using women and children as human shields to defend themselves from the military offensive.

“This does not only go against the moral fiber of our humanity, but violates the protection of those who are not part of the conflict granted under international humanitarian law,” the CHR said.

The CHR also paid tribute to soldiers who died in the fighting to ensure the safety of the rest of the public.

“We stand with the Maranaos and others who have been victimized in this conflict in their pleas for peace as our government forces engage and neutralize the Maute group,” the CHR said.

“These terror attacks had tremendously impacted the lives of local residents. Previous experiences in conflict-stricken areas show that displaced women and children have been the most vulnerable and prone to being hit the hardest as women become target of gender-based violence, while children constantly experience physical and psychological trauma,” it added.

The agency called on government agencies to ensure uninterrupted education for the students and address the psychosocial needs of displaced residents. – With Delon Porcalla, Janvic Mateo, Alexis Romero

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