Group asks Congress for inquiry into Marawi siege, allegations of looting by gov't troops

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(File photo)

Davao City (CNN Philippines, November 2) — As the government turns to the rehabilitation of Marawi City, there are calls to investigate how the siege and the alleged looting of homes by soldiers could have been avoided.

Marawi residents who were allowed to come home returned to a city of massive devastation and looting, some sectors are now calling for Congress to step in.

Samira Gutoc-Tomawis of the Ranao Rescue Team said Thursday, "Senate President Koko, you're from Cagayan de Oro. You're from Davao Sir Pantaleon, so spare us a one visit. Conduct a Congressional inquiry.

With the five-month fighting largely over, Tomawis said it's time for legislators to look deeper into why the siege happened in the first place – and re-examine government's response.

RELATED: Duterte declares liberation of Marawi

More than physical rehabilitation, finding answers, Tomawis said, could be a fitting start to a long, gruelling process of healing and reconciliation.

RELATED: Timeline: The Marawi crisis

"You've had a Kian hearing. You had this hearing on the Skyway for several hours, the DPWH, but for a city that has been in ruin, I mean, you don't even spare it one hearing. Masyadong masakit [It's too painful]," said Tomawis

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said they are willing to submit to a public inquiry as long as "it is within the bounds of law."

Returning on Tuesday from the President's working visit to Japan, Lorenzana was not pleased over reports some soldiers were implicated in looting in Marawi.

He said, "Hindi puwede yung ikaw na 'yung law enforcement agent ka dyan, ikaw 'yung inaasahan na magprotekta sa kanila, ikaw pa, parang bantay salakay ba. So hindi maganda yon, were going to punish them."

[Translation: We cannot allow that the law enforcement there, the ones who are supposed to protect people are the ones taking advantage of the situation. That's not good, we're going to punish them.]

Residents recently allowed to come home found most of their houses in disarray, fueling allegations of widespread looting.

RELATED: After the crisis: Authorities, residents face challenges in rebuilding Marawi

While authorities had initially blamed Marawi attackers for raiding homes, residents question how fighters on the run can cart away appliances and valuables in a city mostly controlled by government security forces.

Lorenzana said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will take accountability if charges are proven – and is eyeing possible compensation for victims.

"Kung talagang ginawa 'yan ng mga sundalo at hindi natin mapinpoint, maybe we have to make some reparations to the owners of the houses," he said.

[Translation: if that was really done by soldiers and we can't pinpoint who they are, maybe we have to make some reparations to the owners of the houses.]

But Lorenzana and the Defense Department continue to enjoy President Rodrigo Duterte's trust – since it heads Task Force Bangon Marawi's sub-committee on security, peace and order together with the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

In a press conference Tuesday after he arrived from Japan, Duterte said there were proposals from his Cabinet suggesting committees to lead the Marawi rehab, but he opposed them because they would cost too much.

Duterte said, "It should be Defense Secretary Lorenzana. Marami naman 'yan siyang mga undersecretaries [he has a lot of undersecretaries]. They can work out something for Marawi. Then it goes to one single person."

Housing czar at the helm of Marawi rehab

With the Department of National Defense stepping back from the lead role in rehabilitating Marawi, it is now the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council that will take charge.

The functions of the Housing Council, chaired by Eduardo del Rosario who served as civil defense chief in the last administration, will be quite extensive.

The President said Cabinet secretaries will report to del Rosario, adding, "So that 'pagka pumalpak, si del Rosario 'yan."

[Translation: So if anything should go wrong, del Rosario will be answerable.]

As Marawi rehab plans continue to unfold, the President said he will make an announcement on a housing project for the war-torn city - but this will have to wait after Monday's cabinet meeting.