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Senators: Catch Maute collaborators, protectors

The President earlier admitted that there was intelligence failure in the course of the bloody standoff. He blamed some local officials in the region who were supposedly “in cahoots” with the extremists. AP/Bullit Marquez, File

MANILA, Philippines — Senators yesterday pressed the government to pursue incumbent and former local officials in Marawi City and other localities in Mindanao who helped the Maute group lay siege to the city.

Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri and Gregorio Honasan made the call as government troops moved closer to ending the conflict in Marawi.

Zubiri said questions remain unanswered on how the extremists were able to preposition thousands of rounds of ammunition, including mortars, dig tunnels and gather their forces in Marawi City under the noses of local officials.

“Whether they are incumbent or ex-elected officials, they must be made to pay, they must be charged with treason,” Zubiri told dzBB.

He said the protection of some local officials and political clans was among the reasons the militants were able to survive the five-month offensive of government forces.

Honasan said local officials should have been the first to detect suspicious activity in Marawi.

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“It’s impossible not to hear the pounding of the sledgehammer or detect new faces (in your city) without them knowing it,” Honasan said.

President Duterte earlier claimed some politicians with ties to drug syndicates had financed the Maute group to attack Marawi.

Duterte lamented the local officials were unaware that extremists had already planned the attack.

The President earlier admitted that there was intelligence failure in the course of the bloody standoff. He blamed some local officials in the region who were supposedly “in cahoots” with the extremists.

Duterte repeatedly stressed that drug money fueled the fighting in Marawi.

Investor confidence

Sen. Grace Poe, a member of the special committee on Marawi, has pitched for a P5-billion fund to help bring back to life the war-torn Marawi City.

Poe proposed to source the P5-billion “Bangon Marawi Fund” from the 2018 budget, which is being deliberated in Congress.

She proposed the additional fund be included under the Unprogrammed Appropriations of the 2018 General Appropriations Act.

Sen. Nancy Binay said indigenous peoples and refugees should be involved in the planning of the rehabilitation of Marawi.

“If we are to rebuild a better Marawi, it is important that we involve those who will eventually return to rebuild their lives there in the creation of a comprehensive rehabilitation plan that will not only address the devastation caused by the clashes but will also come up with solutions to address lingering issues like poverty, inequality, and misunderstanding in order to put a stop to extremism and radicalization in the region,” Binay said.

Officials said it could take until January before rebuilding can start, with the heart of Marawi City littered with unexploded bombs and booby traps and buildings on the brink of collapse after months of government air strikes.

Military operations have cost P5 billion and the government estimates it could be 10 times that much to rebuild Marawi.

The government said 20-year “patriotic bonds” would be sold to generate P30 billion more for the rehabilitation of Marawi.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the conclusion of the five-month conflict in Marawi will strengthen investor confidence in the country and give a boost to tourism.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said rehabilitation works would begin as soon as fighting is over.

Pernia said NEDA has been dispatching officials in the city to assess the extent of damage and determine the initial cost of rehabilitation.

The World Bank and Asian Development Bank already offered to provide loans and technical assistance grants for the city’s rapid reconstruction and rehabilitation.

The Department of Finance also directed the Bureau of Treasury to study the possible issuance of P30 billion worth of debt securities to help fund the rehabilitation work.

In line with the country’s new medium term development plan, NEDA is pursuing its National Spatial Strategy that supports decentralization and regional development.

Adoracion Navarro, NEDA undersecretary for regional development, said the strategy is aimed at decongesting Metro Manila by spurring growth in key centers throughout the country. Specifically, this entails pulling up the performance of lagging regions by linking them with high-performing ones.

This involves the development of regional and sub-regional centers for administration, logistics, tourism, agriculture, industry and education.

Under the plan, 37 regional and four metropolitan centers will become the nucleus of commercial, financial and administrative activities to provinces.

The 117 sub-regional centers, which include Marawi City, will connect services to smaller communities.

Navarro, who made consultation works even while the military was conducting its operations in Marawi, said the Islamic city could be revived as center of higher education in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Before the siege, Marawi had 17 institutions of higher learning.

Other than restoring the city’s reputation as an educational hub, proposals to develop it as a tourism center were also submitted although Navarro said these might need to develop naturally within the community. – With Czeriza Valencia

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