OPENING STATEMENT: We don’t want President Duterte to leave a legacy for the people of Marawi, a legacy like Yolanda

(Opening statement of Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri at the public hearing of the Senate’s Specail Committee on Marawi City Rehabilitation at the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology gym on 21 February 2020)

Good afternoon to all our brothers and sisters from Marawi City and Lanao Province, as well as our co-workers in government.

We are years away from the Marawi Siege. We have since then passed the Bangsamoro Organic Law. Our Bangsamoro brothers and sisters have made their voices heard and ratified the BOL. Many of our former MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) combatants have decided to lay down arms and join us in our cause of peace. MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) Chairman Nur Misuari and MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim have shaken each other’s hands, a truly historic and hope-filled moment considering the decades of conflict between their groups.

But for all that we have gone forward since then, so many of our people are still reeling from the physical, economic, emotional, and psychological damage dealt them during the Marawi Siege.

Marawi is a key to fight violent extremism.  If we will not do our best in the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts here, discontentment and disgruntlement will pervade in the air which will attract extremist elements.  We do not want that to happen to Marawi. Its people have suffered more than enough.

We don’t want another Yolanda here, where years after the devastation of Leyte, resettlement housing are still unfinished, or if they are fully constructed they are not livable or the people do not want to relocate there.  We don’t want President Duterte leave a legacy for the people of Marawi, a legacy like Yolanda.

What have we done since the siege ended?  We have seen this morning some of the relocation sites for them.  However, there are still questions that beg to be answered. Are these relocation sites acceptable to them? Were there public consultations in the identification of relocation sites?  Will they pay for the housing units? What happens now to their lots inside ground zero? Can they go back there and build not just new houses but rebuild their new lives there? Ang tanong din nila ay “ano na?” or ano na ang mangyayari sa kanila pagkatapos ng hearing na ito?  These are the questions foremost in their minds and in our minds too.  We pray that this hearing will find answers to these questions.

I am hopeful that this public hearing will mark a much-needed turning point in our Marawi rehabilitation efforts. The Marawi victims have suffered far too much, and far too long. It is time that we help them heal and rebuild, so they can be one with the rest of BARMM toward a future of peace and progress.  It is only then that the just and lasting peace we laid out through the Bangsamoro Organic Law can be sustained.

Thank you Mr. Chairman for this opportunity. Sukran!