3 years after the siege, displaced Marawi residents go online to demand their  return home

CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 23 May) —  COVID-19 has prevented them from holding a mass action on Saturday, May 23, 2020, three years to the day Daesh-inspired gunmen laid siege on the country’s lone Islamic City,  so displaced Marawi residents went online to ask government to let them go home.

Drieza Lininding of the Moro Consensus Group said they started their campaign a week ago and already 6,000 netizens have shared #balikMarawi in their profile pictures on Facebook. The image shows a photo of Ground Zero in Marawi City as viewed from a keyhole.

The call is the same three years later: “let us go home.”

May 23, 2020, is the third anniversary of the takeover of Marawi City by Daesh-inspired militant gunmen.

“For three years we were homeless. We are again demanding that the government sped up the process of our return,” he said.

Liningding said they will mark the third year anniversary by guesting on Facebook and interviews on local radio stations.

Two non-government organizations, “Pakigdait, Inc. and the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) have organized a forum to be attended by Marawi leaders through Zoom, a videotelephony and online chat.

Liningding said the forum will be livestreamed in the Pakigdait, Inc. FB account at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

“We do not want to be forgotten. We have suffered long enough,” he said.

At least 1,000 families are still living in temporary shelters where clean water, cleanliness and personal space remain a problem, especially in the midst of a pandemic.

Residents scavenge for whatever has value from the ruins of their homes and buildings during the Kambisita sa MAA (Visit the Most Affected Area) on May 9, 2018. Kambisita allowed residents of Ground Zero to visit their villages at three days per sector, from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 1 to May 10. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Bangsamoro Member of Parliament Zia Alonto Adiong said donations have poured in from non-governemntal organizations and the local government of Marawi for the affected residents.

“But the government should not make COVID-19 an excuse to forget their obligation to rebuild Marawi,”  he said.

Most of the work to rebuild Marawi has been on standby because of the pandemic.

But Assistant Secretary Felix de Castro, field manager of Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) told MindaNews on Saturday morning that the road construction is ongoing and there are more workers now that the city is under general community quarantine.

“Tuloy-tuloy ang construction ng shelters – permanent and temporary,” adding there is “limited work” inside the Most Affected Area – or what was Ground Zero during the five month battle between government forces and the Maute Group, Abu Sayyaf and its allies.

He said the repairs that residents were doing were stopped during the COVID-19 lockdown.

He said the livelihood distribution of the Department of Trade and Industry has continued “pero delivered sa homes” (but delivered at home). He said non-governmental organizations are also assisting residents to cope given the loss of employment or livelihood during the quarantine.

He said they are “waiting for the lifting of quarantine for full resumption” of the rehabilitation efforts in Marawi.

Calls for revamp

Two days before the anniversary, Deputy Speaker and Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman called for a revamp in the leadership and management of TFBM, citing the delays in the reconstruction of the war-torn city.

“It has been three years and still, the people of Marawi have yet to return to their homes. This is actionable negligence already on the part of TFBM,” Hataman said.

MindaNews sought TFBM chair Secretary Eduardo del Rosario for comment but he had not sent his reply as of 2 p.m. Saturday.

A Meranaw MP, Marjanie Mimbantas,  made a similar call on the national government to“consider the reorganization of the team leading the rehabilitation of Marawi.”

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte meets with officials and displaced residents of Marawi City, Task Force Bangon Marawi and the Senate’s Special Committee on Marawi City Rehabilitation in Malacañang on March 4, 2020 to discuss and find solutions to the problems plaguing the rehabilitation efforts in Marawi. The President is flanked by (L to R) Task Force Bangon Marawi chair Eduardo del Rosario, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Senators Christopher Lawrence Go and Ronald dela Rosa, vice chair and chair respectively of the Senate Committee. ALFRED FRIAS/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

“It is the right time to place someone who knows the sentiments and needs of the Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) to lead the team—someone who is an IDP. This can only bring good results,” Mimbantas said in a statement released on Saturday.

“We, the People of Marawi, want to go home. We want to experience the next Ramadan in our homes— in OUR Marawi City,” he said.

The siege in May 2017 came just as residents were preparing for Ramadan to start within the week. This year is their fourth Ramadan as displaced residents.

In a statement, MP Anna Tarhata Basman of Marawi, Vice Chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority – Parliament’s Special Committee on Marawi and chair of its Sub-Committee on Rehabilitation, reaffirmed “our commitment to bring to life the mandate of the BARMM  to support the national government’s rehab efforts, in a manner that puts the real needs and sentiments of IDPs first.”

“Today, we grieve. We remember who we lost and what was taken from us three years ago. But today we also look forward to a more prosperous, more peaceful, and more hopeful future—and we pray with you, for the sake of our sisters and brothers, that it comes sooner rather than later,” she said. (Froilaan Gallardo with a report by Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)




(Froilaan Gallardo with a report from Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)