OUR MARAWI: A call to return to our homes is a privilege or a right?

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Bismillah Hirahmanir Rahim. In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

One of the gaps construed between the Task Force Bangon Marawi – Government and the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) is sending wrong information, false hope, and false expectation to the IDPs. I think the government in general, should think that no matter how good the intention that they want to implement in the post-Marawi rehabilitation for the welfare of the hopeless and frustrated IDPs in Ground Zero, most of the IDPs feel that they are betrayed in the past 10 months.

1. On the first week of June 2017, the government claimed that big portion of Marawi was cleared from the militants and they assured the public to protect the areas outside the battleground. Did the government protect the IDP properties from the looters? Until now, the government refuses to discuss the issue in the formal public hearing.

  1. During the CSO visit in the provincial capitol last June 12, 2017, the government assured the public “IDPs’ that only small portion in Marawi has been destroyed and sooner or later, the IDPs can return to their respective homes. Did the promise of the government happen?
  2. In July 2017, the IDPs initiatives to demand and return the IDPs in their respective place called “kambalingan” and the government responded that no less than the honorable Defense Secretary had a meeting and dialogue with the stakeholders in Marawi to address the issue. At the end, they promised to let the IDPs return as soon as Ground Zero became free from terror or from the militant group. After October 16 where Marawi was officially liberated from the militant group, how many months of sufferings and agony had been experienced by the IDPs from MAA waiting for their return after the liberation of Marawi?
  3. During the time of former Chairman Yano of Task Force Bangon Marawi, he told the IDPs many times that the government is committed to address the reparation and compensation to the damage of properties in the war zone areas during the rehabilitation period because the government launched the war against the terrorist and they also knew the consequences to the affected people on the action made by them. After his term as TFBM chairman, the government again through the new TFBM leadership says that the government could not address the reparation for the victims unless provided by law. The NEDA plan never mentions the reparation. Is the government happy to give false hope and expectation to the IDPs especially that they are emotionally affected due to the situation?
  4. On October 16 onward, the justification of the government to prevent the IDPs to enter in Ground Zero might be right due to the unfounded IED, but for more than five months is too much. The visitors or people from Manila can easily visit Ground Zero in Marawi but the IDPs themselves have no chance to visit their respective homes except for various permit and so on. Did this kind of process not violate the IDP constitutional rights both International Humanitarian Law “principle of forced displacement and the right to return” and the sovereign right of the IDPs to return in their respective houses after the war? Worst, most of the properties of the IDPs have been looted and until now, no further explanation of who will be accountable for these incidents. Can you blame the IDPs to call for their return in their respective homes even without rehabilitation?
  5. The government through the Office of Civil Defense conducted the post-conflict and needs assessment including the damage properties in MAA. The results shown that 100% of the houses are destroyed. However, the data did not articulate and explain the clear methodology and mechanics on how they derive the accurate assessment. When they were asked how they assessed the properties inside the houses, no response from them. Therefore, I presumed that the government plan to flatten Marawi is consistent as revealed by Chairman of TFBM during his interview in ABS-CBN. Can flattening Marawi address the IDP grievances? Or is flattening Marawi a consensus decision by the TFBM together with other leaders?
  6. The comprehensive plan made by the NEDA to be presented to the President for signing is assumed “bottoms ups” approach because it was attended by elected local leaders and other stakeholders from MAA accordingly. The representation of the Barangay Chairman and council will never represent the general public or IDP” in general. The destroyed properties are not only public facilities but also private properties. Therefore, the consultation should include all community stakeholders. If the plan is IDP-centered and based on the needs of the IDPs from Ground Zero, can you tell the general IDP’s if the plan has been addressed the IDP clamor including returning to Marawi permanently without deadline and restriction, reparation to the IDP damage properties, looting, restoration of madrasah and masjid, creation of third party to assess and monitor the whereabouts of the funding sources given to various agencies, temporary shelters must anchor to the Meranao sensitivity and clear criteria of beneficiaries, clear support for livelihood and subsidies to both home-based and evacuation sites, 10 meters instead of 50 meters for the no bill zone, clear compensation to the private properties that will be affected to the development plan like road widening, cash assistance instead of relief assistance and many more. Henceforth, if the explanation of the TFBM and the LGU (local government unit) is somehow different from the outline written in the comprehensive plan from NEDA, therefore it needs to clarify before any rehabilitation in Marawi is started.
  7. The psyche of the Meranao is still opposing the extension of Military camp within the heart of Marawi since it violates the protocol that military camp must be confined outside the city because whatever happens for security instability, the people inside the city will not be directly affected. Most of the people believe that installation of many camps inside Marawi city will never guarantee the peace stability inside Marawi like in Jolo where extremism is very high despite the presence of various military camps. On the other hand, it also contradicts the normalization process between the MILF and the government if Bangsamoro Basic Law is passed. Thus, the IDPs oppose the installation of military camp because it never undergoes public consultation with the stakeholders and worst, the landowners are asked by the government to sell their land in the situation that the people are attracted to money than their principle because of the situation. The IDPs feel that the government is monetizing their dignity. The present Campo Ranao in Marawi must be upgraded with full facilities with additional personnel to ensure the safety of the public as well increase the number of Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel in Marawi as a mobile force to prevent any eventualities in the future instead of putting up more camps within the heart of the city.The government through the TFBM faced tremendous problems and challenges in the execution of their plan and program to rehabilitate Marawi. Marawi is complex in nature because the government often undermines the sensitivity among Meranao. The situation in Marawi is beyond rehabilitation. The pronouncement for the permanent relocation has threatened many IDPs because Meranao is like other indigenous people in the country where their religion, faith, culture, norms and way of life is attached to their land. If they will be evicted and transferred to other areas, their way of life and identity will also be transformed and challenged.Thus, false expectation, false hope, and misinformation amidst the IDP situation will always aggravate the situation. The TFBM and the LGUs should revisit the psychology and sensitivity of the Meranao to bridge the gap transcended within themselves.Henceforth, the call for the immediate return of the IDPs in the Ground Zero is one way to show unselfish support to the government. Therefore, the call to return is not a privilege but a right.

    (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. OUR Marawi is open to anyone who wishes to share his/ her thoughts on what is happening in Marawi. Abdul Hamidullah T. Atar is Sultan of Marawi. He posted this on his FB page on March 25, 2018. Atar is among the organizers of “Mbalingan Tano sa Ground Zero: Peaceful Protest Rally” on Friday, 30 March 2018 in Marawi City)

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