Marawi  CSO leader says curfew measure vs COVID-19 akin to martial law

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 14 February)  — A civil society leader in Marawi City appealed to authorities to consider conducting a public consultation to discuss the possible easing of the 8 pm. to 4:30 a.m. curfew which was imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 but is causing problems for Meranaws, including traffic jams.

Drieza Lininding, chair of the Moro Consensus Group, criticized the curfew measure implemented to help fight COVID-19 as “too strict” and akin to martial law. Marawi and the rest of Mindanao were under martial law from May 23, 2017, Day 1 of the Marawi Siege, until December 31, 2019.  President Rodrigo Duterte declared Marawi “liberated from the terrorist influence” on October 17, 2017.

He appealed to the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and the city government of Marawi to consult the public.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION. A worker heads to the road reconstruction site in Marawi City on October 17, 2020, exactly three years after President Rodrigo Duterte declared Marawi City “liberated from the terrorist influence.” Residents of Ground Zero have yet to return home.  MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

“We are no longer in a state of armed conflict but we still see the remnant of the Marawi siege through the curfew being imposed upon entering Marawi,” he said at the online forum on ‘COVID, Conflicts and the Peace Process: Focus on Marawi’  on Saturday. The forum was initiated by MindaNews in partnership with Internews.

Lininding said the curfew in Marawi, which now takes effect starting 8 p.m. from 6 p.m. previously, is causing tremendous traffic leading to the city.

“The curfew is causing a big trouble in the movement of goods and people. No one can get in or out of Marawi once the curfew takes effect,” he said.

“The measure was not studied carefully by the IATF,”  he added, expressing apprehension that a bridge in the country’s lone Islamic city,  could collapse due to the volume of returning vehicles stuck in traffic to beat the curfew.

Lininding noted that Marawi, due to the devastation brought by the war, lacks many essential consumer goods, including medicines, forcing residents to go to the nearby cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro to buy stuff.

But what is happening in Marawi, he said, is not just the imposition of a curfew but a lockdown.

Asked on Sunday what options they are proposing to the IATF and the city government, Lininding told MindaNews that the curfew could  start at 10 p.m.   instead of 8 p.m. or  establishments could close at 8 p.m. but residents traveling from neighboring Iligan or Cagayan de Oro and other neighboring areas should still be allowed to enter Marawi by 10 p.m.

Drieza Lininding, chair of the Moro Consensus Group, speaks during the forum on “COVID, Conflicts and the Peace Process” online forum on Saturday, 13 February 2021.

Lininding also said he wonders why President Rodrigo Duterte approved the recommendation of the national Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to place Lanao del Sur, including Marawi City, under general community quarantine (GCQ) alongside other areas experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, when there is no surge  in the province.

Lanao del Sur was placed under Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) from October 1 to  October 31 and General Community Quarantine (GCQ)  since November 1.

The province recorded 142 new cases in 42 days — from 1,169 on January 1 to 1,311 on February 11, accordin to the records of the Ministry of Health of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Midnanao. On November 1, when the province was placed under GCQ, its number of cases was 931.

President Duterte on January 29 again placed Lanao del Sur under GCQ from February 1 to 28, its fourth month under GCQ.  (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)