June 19, 2018, 11:44 pm
Facebook iconTwitter iconYouTube iconGoogle+ icon

MARAWI SIEGE: A year after, thousands remain displaced


BY VICTOR REYES AND JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR

A YEAR after the bloody Marawi City conflict broke out, at least 40,000 families, or about 210,000 individuals, remain housed in evacuation centers.

This is because of the massive destruction in the city which was attacked by the Maute terror group that battled government forces for five months.

The number of evacuees peaked at around 53,000 families at the early stage of the crisis, according to Myrna Jo Henry, information officer of the Humanitarian Emergency Action Response and Response of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

A family is composed of four to five members, on the average, said Edgar Posadas, spokesman of the Office of the Civil Defense.

He also said it may take time before the 42,252 families will be able to return because reconstruction and rehabilitation of the city is ongoing.

The remaining internally displaced persons are mostly residents of 24 barangays which the military considered as the “main battle area.” 

Posadas called the 24 barangays as “most affected areas (MAAs).”

Authorities began allowing displaced residents to go back to their homes outside the most-affected areas in November or weeks after the fighting ended. Residents have been allowed to see their destroyed homes but were not allowed to stay.

Asked when the internally-displaced persons (IDPs) will be able to return, Posadas said, “Inside the MAAs, it may take time because the rehabilitation is just about to start.”

Posadas said the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council is in charge of the rehabilitation and reconstruction inside the MAAs while the Office of Civil Defense is leading the rehabilitation in 72 other Marawi barangays that are outside the MAAs, using a P10-billion fund allocated to them by the national government.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which is helping in the ongoing relief operations, said around 230,000 people remain displaced and in need of support.

“Efforts to rehabilitate Marawi and assist its people must be stepped up to reduce the suffering of thousands of those who were displaced over the past year,” said Pascal Porchet, head of the ICRC delegation in the Philippines.

“The efforts are there, but these must match the growing needs of those who face prolonged displacement and are close to despair,” he added.

NO MAGIC FORMULA

Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, during a briefing held in Marawi City, said government is doing all it can to hasten the rehabilitation and bring normalcy back to Marawi.

He urged residents and other stakeholders to be more patient and supportive of the administrative actions.

He said the government understands the impatience of the communities but said there is no “magic formula” that could solve everything overnight.

“We are working, government is doing its best to restore as much as possible what was destroyed and I think we are on the road. But we’d like to call on all those who had gone through suffering to please be patient. There is no magic formula here. There is no reconstruction that will happen overnight,” Dureza said.

He added there are a lot of challenges and not everybody would agree to the plans presented or ideas suggested, which is why government continues to hear the sentiments of those directly affected on the ground.

Zia Alonto Adiong, ARMM assemblyman, said in the same briefing the impatience and frustration of some residents, especially those who are staying in evacuation centers and temporary shelters, come from the fear of expulsion and of not knowing what will happen to them.

He said the local government has been working with the national government agencies to accomplish the five priorities of Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) at the soonest time possible. These priority are reconstruction, education, livelihood and business, security and peace and order, and social services including medical services.

WHO’S TO BLAME? 

Eduardo Año, officer in charge of the interior department, blamed local government officials and Marawi residents for the Maute siege.

He said May 23 serves as a reminder to all “that this kind of crisis should not have happened at all if everyone has been doing its share in our fight against terror.”

Año said “a lot of information” did not reach the Armed Forces because local government officials and residents “probably ignored it.”

He also surmised that this also has to do with the culture of people not wanting to meddle or getting involved in an issue.

“If the information from the residents, even barangay officials, even local government officials, reached us, we could have prepared,” said Año, who was Armed Forces chief during the siege.

“We need information, we need continuing feedback from people. The Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police are well-trained, prepared to fight. But if you dong have enough information, we’re like a blindfolded boxer who keeps on punching out of luck, with no specific target,” said Año.

Año said hundreds of Maute-ISIS entered the city but not a single information from the local officials and residents about the terrorist presence was reported to authorities.

“Imagine, 600 members of an armed group entered (the city). It’s too impossible they didn’t see that. Also, this did not happen in just one day,” he said.

The Maute-ISIS Group lost 974 men in the fighting, including Isnilon Hapilon, the supposed ISIS leader in Southeast Asia, and Maute leaders Omar Maute and Abdullah Maute. Also, 168 soldiers and policemen and 47 civilians died in the crisis.

“We got information (from other sources) that armed men went inside though there’s no information where they exactly went. They went there, including Hapilon, and they didn’t bother to report,” added Año

Told that it was the military’s job to monitor the enemy, Año said: “Well, it’s the job of the military, that’s why we have our intelligence units. But then we could not get all the information,” he said, noting that most of these information come from the population themselves.

Año also acknowledged military lapses, leading to the five-month conflict.

“The problem in Marawi occurred the day we’re in Moscow. So we have to admit we have a lapse there because if there was proper assessment, we could have postponed the Moscow trip but even then, the President handled the situation very professionally,” he said.

MARTIAL LAW

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said martial law would only be lifted once there is no longer need for it.

President Duterte place the entire Mindanao under martial law hours after the Maute attacked Marawi City on May 23 last year.

“Wala pong gusto na magkaroon ng [No one wants] martial law beyond the necessity of martial law. So the Palace would like to assure the public that the moment that need for martial law (ceases), it will be lifted. Exactly one year after the siege, the time for lifting martial law is not yet here,” he said.

Roque also defended the absence of President Duterte in Marawi yesterday, saying what was commemorated was the attack.

Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go echoed Roque’s statement.

“The start of the Marawi siege is something that is not worth celebrating. And for being such, the President is not keen on visiting Marawi a year after it was desecrated by members of the ISIS-Maute group,” Go said.

He added that the President prefers to join the residents of Marawi during the celebration of its liberation in October.

COMPENSATION

Adiong stressed the need for a separate compensation package for Marawi’s speedy rehabilitation and to provide more assistance the communities affected.

Lanao del Sur Rep. Ansarrudin Adiong on May 16 filed a bill seeking provision of assistance and compensation to the residents affected by the siege. If passed, this will serve as a legal basis for reparations for the people of Marawi.

TFBM field office manager and civil defense assistant secretary Felix Castro said the government hopes to start the main rehabilitation and reconstruction work by middle of June.

Castro said government is expediting the process to meet its June target date and had already completed its series of consultations with the different sectors of the community and the stakeholders of Marawi from April to the first half of May, to get the sentiments of those who really live in the area and would directly benefit once the rehabilitation is completed.

He said no developer has been identified for the reconstruction as the plans are still being finalized.
Category: 
Rating: 
No votes yet

Column of the Day

High priced sugar a blessing!

Dahli Aspillera's picture
By DAHLI ASPILLERA | June 20,2018
‘High-sugar diets have been associated with an increased risk of many diseases, including heart disease, the number one cause of death worldwide.’

Opinion of the Day

A confused lot

Jose Bayani Baylon's picture
By JOSE BAYANI BAYLON | June 20, 2018
‘We can’t be “true” to whatever faith we claim to hold if we mix and match beliefs whenever it suits us.’