Some Marawi houses demolished during clearing operations without residents' consent

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The five-month war in Marawi displaced 300,000 residents and destroyed houses and buildings mostly in ground zero, composed of 24 barangays or 250 hectares of land. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 12) — A number of Marawi residents have lost their homes twice – first after they were displaced by the siege, and second, when their houses were demolished without their consent after the war.

This was revealed by Anak Mindanao Party List Rep. Makmod Mending on Wednesday, saying he knew of the residents' plight after a visit to war-torn Marawi last Monday.

"What happened? How did it happen that no consent was given by the resident owner of the structure and yet it was demolished without their consent?" Mending asked administration officials during a joint session of Congress on the extension of martial law in Mindanao.

Task Force Bangon Marawi Chairperson and Housing Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario said, it was a "misunderstanding."

He explained that during clearing operations in Marawi's most damaged areas, "there was some misunderstanding that some facilities without consent were also included." He did not elaborate on how this happened and how many houses were affected.

"But I would like to assure you that those structures were destroyed and not habitable anymore," Del Rosario said.

He added that the government is now working on a "written procedure" that will establish a policy to avoid similar incidents in the future.

Meanwhile, Senator Richard Gordon criticized the lack of progress in the rehabilitation of Marawi, more than two years after the government declared its liberation from terrorist forces.

"When do we start building the houses of the people who lost their homes there?" Gordon said, adding that businesses should also come in to improve the lives of Marawi residents. "It seems that after this war, we still don't have any plan," he added.

"We will be extending martial law every year unless we show the people that there's some economic improvement that will happen there," Gordon added.

In an overwhelming 235-28 vote, with one abstention, senators and representatives granted President Rodrigo Duterte's third request for an extension of martial law in Mindanao, which he first declared when terrorists attacked Marawi City in May 2017.

READ: Congress grants third extension of Mindanao martial law until end of 2019

The five-month war displaced 300,000 residents and destroyed houses and buildings mostly in ground zero, composed of 24 barangays or 250 hectares of land. More than 900 terrorists, 47 civilians, and 165 government troops were killed.

Del Rosario on Wednesday admitted 812 families are still in evacuation centers, but stressed that temporary shelters will be turned over by year-end.

He reiterated that it would be dangerous for residents of the most affected areas to come home, because these are still being cleared of debris and explosives. The government eyes finishing clearing operations by August 2019. If things go as planned, Del Rosario said residents can start rebuilding their homes by July 2020, or more than three years after the war.