Murad visits Marawi’s Ground Zero; vows rehab will be priority in transition gov’t

MARAWI CITY (MindaNews / 22 December) – “Terible. Talagang terible ang destruction,” Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said of how he felt when he entered Ground Zero, the main battle area between government forces and violent extremist groups during the five-month war in 2017.

Murad, who came here as keynote speaker of the Ranaw Region Grand Rally on Bangsamoro Organic Law at the Dimaporo Gymnasium in the Mindanao State University in the morning, told MindaNews his visit to Ground Zero, now referred to as the Most Affected Area (MAA), further strengthened his resolve to help work for the immediate rehabilitation of Marawi during the three-year transition period from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

“I also realized the hard task in the rehabilitation process and the need to mobilize the international community,” he added.

With his mobile phone ready to take pictures, MILF chair Al Haj Ebrahim Murad surveys the extent of damage at the main battle area in Marawi City on Saturday, December 22, 2018. Murad attended the Ranaw Region Grand Rally on Bangsamoro Organic Law at the Dimaporo Gymnasium in the Mindanao State University and afterwards visited the main affected area of the five-month conflict. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

The immediate rehabilitation of Marawi is part of the 10-point priority program the MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) is set to do once RA 11054 is ratified.

At the rally on Saturday morning, Murad told the audience that Marawi is one of the 10 priorities of the transition government.

Murad, the nominee of the MILF to be Chief Minister of the BTA, briefed international development partners in a meeting in Davao City on October 11 about the future Bangsamoro government, their 10-point priority program to meet the “huge challenges” as they transition “from rebellion to governance” and from the ARMM to BARMM.

Immediate rehabilitation of Marawi is priority number 6. He told the crowd that included six Ambassadors, that Marawi “must be quickly rehabilitated and reconstructed as every delay is an opportunity for violent extremists to use it for propaganda and recruitment.”

“Besides, immediate rehabilitation of Marawi is both the right and just thing to do,” he said.

At Ground Zero in Marawi on December 22, Murad vowed to “convince the international community” to help in the rehabilitation of Marawi.

“We are hoping na ma-convince din natin ang international community,” Murad told MindaNews minutes after he stepped out of the Grand Mosque.

Before Murad arrived at the gym on Saturday morning, ARMM Vice Governor Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman had told his fellow Meranaws at the rally that “we would rather put our faith in the incoming BARMM than this Task Force Bangon Marawi,” the multi-agency body that is charged with the recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi.

The task force, Lucman said, “has lost its credibility. It does not serve the interests of the people of Marawi.”

Murad is the MILF’s nominee to the post of Chief Minister of the BTA, the 80-member body that will be appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte to govern the BARMM upon the ratification of the law until the first set of officials shall have been elected in May 2022 and the BARMM is inaugurated on June 30, 2022.

The plebiscite to ratify RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is on January 21, 2019 in the proposed core territory comprising the present ARMM (Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan), and the cities of Cotabato and Isabela in Basilan. The plebiscite in Lanao del Norte and a portion of North Cotabato will be on February 6.

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the peace agreement signed by the government and the MILF in March 2014, provides that the BTA will be led by the MILF.

From the Rizal Park where one can have a vantage view of the landscape of rubble at the Padian, the city’s commercial district before it became a battleground in 2017, Murad, who had dropped out of his engineering course four decades ago to take part in the Moro revolution, initially said nothing as he surveyed the extent of the destruction and took photographs using his mobile phone.

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim outside the Grand Mosque of Marawi City’s Ground Zero. MindaNews photo by GG BUENO

Rizal Park was the first of three stops in the nearly hour-long visit that started at the bridge in Mapandi at around 4:30 p.m. As he disembarked from his Chevrolet Suburban SUV with “MILF” car plate on its front and none at the back, Murad’s close-in security personnel were quick to get him a white cap and an umbrella to shield him from the drizzle. It was the same at the second stop at the Grand Mosque. The third stop, on foot as it was near the mosque, was the destroyed hospital of Dr. Zafrullah Dipatuan.

Murad told supporters who joined him in the visit, that international support helped in the rehabilitation of Aceh which suffered heavily following the December 26, 2004 tsunami.

Several Meranaws gave Murad a background on what the Padian was to the Meranaws as well as the history of the Grand Mosque and its role in the history of the Bangsamoro struggle, while Major Palawan Miondas, Civil Military Operations officer of the 103rd Infantry Brigade, briefed him on the battle narratives in that area.

Murad said he would visit an evacuation center on Sunday morning before heading back to Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)