“Ground Zero is ours. We want to go home,” displaced Marawi residents appeal to Senate Committee

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 22 February) — Angry by the slow progress of the government’s rehabilitation efforts in Marawi, displaced residents presently staying in Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur, went out to the streets on Friday morning for a picket to appeal to the Senate’s Special Committee on Marawi City Rehabilitation that they be allowed to return home to Ground Zero, the former main battle area.

“Ground Zero is ours. We want to go home,” read many of the placards of the residents who staged pickets and rallies in Saguiaran and Iligan City on Friday.

Displaced Marawi residents march in Iligan City from the Children’s Park to the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology gym on February 21, 2020, venue of the public hearing conducted by the Senate’s Special Committee on Marawi City Rehabilitation. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

A bigger group of about 200 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Marawi marched from the Children’s Park here to the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology gym where senators held a public hearing on the Marawi rehabilitation.

All carried a single voice that they be allowed to go home and build their houses in the 250-hectare former main battle area which has remained off-limits almost three years after government troops flushed out the Daesh- inspired Maute militants.

“Just let us go home and build our houses. Give us the money you have earmarked for us and we will forget everything, “ said Drieza Lininding, chair of the Moro Consensus Group in Marawi.

Lininding said Marawi IDPs are angry that they are not allowed to go back to their homes in the 24 barangays of the former main battle area, now known as the Main Affected Area.

He said many still live under squalid conditions in various temporary shelters that were set up by the government.

Fifty-one year old Mosinoma Miguel of Barangay Tolali in Marawi City l complains on February 21, 2020 that even if they have been told they can go home, they need money to repair their houses and electricity and water are still unavailable. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Marawi resident Sittie Hajar Ibrahim said 300 of them were allowed to rebuild their houses in Barangay Tolali but are spending their own money for it.

“There is no electricity, no water and our money is running out,” Ibrahim said as she and 40 women waited for the senators to pass their village.

They planned to tell the senators of their sad plight.

The Special Committee led by its chair,  Senator  Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, conducted an ocular inspection in Marawi on Friday morning and from there proceeded to the public hearing at the MSU-IIT gym here.

Aside from dela Rosa, also present were committee members — Senators Christopher Lawrence Go, Francis Tolentino, Irene Marcos – and Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri.

In their position paper presented to the senators, Prof. Tirmizy Abdullah of the Ranaw Civil Society Organizations said Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) failed to restore basic public utilities.

Abdullah and his group are demanding that TFBM, which is tasked by the government to oversee the rehabilitation of Marawi, be dissolved.

“The TFBM failed in everything. It is useless and should be dissolved,” Abdullah said.

Sultan Hamidullah Atar of Marawi City said the government should also compensate the families of the civilians who died during the five-month fighting to retake Marawi City.

TFBM Chair Eduardo del Rosario said the reconstruction of Marawi is handicapped by the non-passage of the compensation bill still pending in Congress. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)