Duterte after Marawi’s “liberation”: two visits, three no show

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 15 April) – Since he declared Marawi City “liberated from the terrorist influence” on October 17, 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte has returned to the city in ruins twice, and was a no show thrice.

The country’s first Mindanawon President and first with Meranaw roots was expected at the rally of the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino (PDP) in Marawi City on April 12 but did not make it due to bad weather, the Presidential spokesperson and the PDP spokesperson said.

It was Duterte’s third no show in Marawi since “liberation” and the second in six months.

President Rodrigo Duterte joins the symbolic flag-raising rites inside the Jamiatul Philippine Al- Islamia in Banggolo District, Marawi City on 17 October 2017 and declares Marawi City “liberated from the terrorist infuence”. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

He was expected to grace the first anniversary of Marawi’s “liberation” on October 17, 2018 which would have been the groundbreaking rites for the rehabilitation efforts in Ground Zero, the 250-hectare, 24-barangay former main battle area between government forces and the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group and its allies, now referred to as the Most Affected Area (MAA).

The groundbreaking schedule was changed several times to accommodate the President’s schedule. In the end, it was held on October 30 with Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, chair of the Task Force Bangon Marawi, as guest of honor.

On December 27, 2017, his supposed first interaction with Marawi’s internally displaced persons (IDPs) after his June 20, 2017 visit to the IDPs in the Buru-un evacuation center in Iligan City, Duterte was a no show at the turnover rites at the transitional site in Barangay Sagonsongan. The President was late for the 1 p.m. affair and the pilots could no longer find an opening in the clouds to land in Marawi. They proceeded to his second destination — Tubod, Lanao del Norte — instead.

The Sagonsongan turnover was supposed to be in mid-December but was reset to December 27 for the President.

Two visits

Since he declared Marawi “liberated” on October 17, 2017, Duterte has visited Marawi twice — on January 30 and May 11 in 2018 — the first during the groundbreaking rites for the second military camp that residents are objecting to, and to distribute certificates of acceptance and occupancy of transitory shelter units in Barangay Sagonsongan, where he asked for forgiveness and vowed: “We try (sic) to build a new city. I will guarantee you for the remaining years that there will always be money for you, that you’ll be able to rehabilitate your business kung talagang gusto lang ninyo (if that’s what you really want).”

The second visit was on May 11, 2018, at the Provincial Capitol Gym, for the “presentation of surrendered firearms and distribution of assistance to ISIS-Maute group surrenderees.”

He said government wants peace and does not want to be in Marawi to fight. “That is a waste of time and money and the lives of people… At the end of the day, lahat ‘yang armas na ‘yan makita mo, it does not really mean anything. It has not succeeded its purpose. Nagamit lahat ‘yan, maraming namatay (these were used, many were killed).

GROUND ZERO, MARAWI. The military opened portions of Marawi City’s Ground Zero on 25 October 2017 for journalists to see what it took in the last five months, to liberate the country’s lone Islamic City from ISIS-inspired terrorists. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

He said what happened in Marawi was painful but as President, “I had a duty to perform, not only here in Lanao del Sur, in Lanao del Norte. But I have a duty to perform to all. Ke ba Bisaya, Ilocano, Bicolano, Tausug, Maguindanao, Iranun, ‘yung sa akin, ang Kagan. I have a duty that’s why kailangan ko talagang to declare martial law.”

Duterte declared martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus shortly before midnight of May 23, 2017, barely eight hours after the first burst of gunfire on Day 1 of the Marawi siege. The declaration was for 60 days but he asked Congress to extend it thrice – first until December 31, 2017, second until December 31, 2018 and third until December 31, 2019.

Transitory shelters

In the morning of April 12, the day the President was expected to attend the PDP rally, the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) through the National Housing Authority transferred 350 families displaced since May 2017 to their transitory shelters in Boganga Lakeview.

The TFBM said 195 families of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the Bito Buadi Itowa Evacuation Center and 155 home-based IDPs moved to the Boganga Lakeview Transitory Shelter.

The Task Force Bangon Marawi through the National Housing Authority transferred 195 displaced families from Bito Buadi Itowa Evacuation Center and 155 home-based IDPs to the Boganga Lakeview Transitory Shelter in Marawi City on April 12, 2019. Photo courtesy of Task Force Bangon Marawi

As of April 12, the TFBM said a total of 556 displaced families had moved to the site, 206 of them in January 2019.

A total of 1,500 transitory shelters are to be built in Boganga by July 1, 2019, with a project cost of PhP 495 million, according to the status report of the NHA’s Marawi Project Management Office, as of February 28, 2019.

The status report also said a total of 1,052 transitory shelters in Sagonsongan were completed as of 2018; that in Dulay, Barangay Rorogagus, the local government unit had completed 1,000 transitory shelters costing PhP 335 million; and in Barangay Rorogagus again, 1,000 transitory shelters are expected to be completed by July 1, 2019, costing PhP 213 million.

It also said that 2,000 permanent shelters under the Pamayandeg Ranaw Residences in Barangays Kilala and Gadiongan, are to be constructed with Phase 1 comprising 500 units expected to be completed six months from the start of the project in December 2018 or by May 2019.

Before the siege, what is now Ground Zero was the city’s commercial district and was home to 27,000 families, 11,163 of them owners, the rest “sharers and renters.”

Ground Zero was also the trading center of the province of Lanao del Sur.

Returned by November 2019

Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, TFBM chair, told a consultation and House Committee public hearing in Marawi on March 18-19 and 20, respectively, that residents of Ground Zero will be able to return to their villages to repair or rebuild their homes by the first week of September 2019 after the debris clearing is done by August 30.

But residents residing near the bridges, in what he said were the ‘least affected areas’ in Ground Zero can start returning by first week of July to repair their residential and commercial structures provided they seek a permit from City Hall and their structures are still considered safe.

Task Force Bangon Marawi chief Eduardo del Rosario, MindaNews file photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

Ground Zero has been classified into nine sectors.

In a press conference after the turnover rites for the Boganga shelters morning of April 12, Del Rosario said the “final timetable” is for the clearing of unexploded bombs by August 30 but residents in Sector 1 can return by July to repair or rebuild their homes provided they secure a permit form the city government to rebuild or repair.

He said residents in Sectors 2 and 3 can return in August; Sectors 4 and 5 in September; Sectors 6 and 7 in October and Sectors 8 and 9 in November. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)