Marawi ‘bakwits’ demand to be allowed to go home

MARAWI CITY (MindaNews /24 May) – Desperate internally displaced Meranaws said presumptive president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. will have to clean up the mess in the rehabilitation of Marawi City and allow them to go home before December ends this year or else they would be forced to take direct action.

Hundreds of internally displaced residents stage a rally in Marawi City on Monday (23 May 2022), fifth anniversary of the start of the Marawi siege, to dramatize their plight after they were driven away from their homes. Many of them are still living in temporary shelters in the outskirts of the city. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

At least 200 “bakwits” living in temporary shelters in the outskirts of Marawi staged a rally and forum on Monday, marking the fifth year they were displaced by months of intense street fighting between government forces and the IS-inspired Maute group who laid siege on Marawi after government forces attempted to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, believed to have been anointed Emir of the IS in Southeast Asia.
 
Several students also joined the rally and mounted a street play at Kilometer Zero, venue of the rally.

Amenodin “Ding” Cali, director of Reclaiming Marawi Movement (RMM), said that many internally displaced persons (IDPs) or “bakwits” he talked to are “contemplating of occupying government structures” inside the “Ground Zero” or Most Affected Area (MAA).

“I’m not sure if they can actually do it or not. But apparently it would be an action out of desperation,” he said. “One ‘bakwit’ told me they will be forced to just enter the MAA and transfer there for good because they have nothing to lose anyway,” Cali told MindaNews.

He stressed that after staying in temporary shelters in the outskirts of the city in the last five years, many of the “bakwits” are fed up that their pleas to go home have not been heeded by the government.
 

‘Bakwits’ join the rally in Marawi City on Monday (23 May 2022). The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in its May 2020 report, said more than 120,000 residents in Marawi have been displaced because of the siege. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

“The IDPs are fed up with the unreliable livelihood they have in the temporary shelters. They have enough of it. They want to go home to rebuild their homes,” he said.

Cali said the IDPs are adopting “a wait and see stance” on who Marcos will appoint in the Marawi Compensation Board.
 
President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act 11696 or the Marawi Siege Compensation Act of 2022 last April 13, providing for the creation of a nine-member Marawi Compensation Board.
 
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in its May 2020 report that more than 120,000 residents in Marawi have been displaced because of the siege.
 
“The IDPs do not want the board to be politicized. They want the board to help them,” Cali said.

“Until when will we remain to be a bakwit? We did not wish this thing to happen. We left our homes without money or clothes,” said Aisha Radia, a mother of 10 children.

Students join the protest. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Radia said she and her family spent the early months at the Lumbacatoros Saguiaran shelter begging for food and money.
 
She broke into tears as she narrated her experience, eliciting cries from the students of “Allahu Akbar!” and “Makibaka, huwag matakot!”
 
Radia said she would not hesitate to join her fellow IDPs if they would call for more protest actions by December.
 
Assistant Secretary Felix Castro Jr., Task Force Bangon Marawi field manager, dismissed the rally of the IDPs. He said it is not true that “Ground Zero” residents are not allowed to return home. He said there is a process to follow and at least a thousand residents have been able to secure permits to rebuild their homes in “Ground Zero,” or the Most Affected Area (MAA), as these are required under the National Building Code.
 
He encouraged the IDPs to proceed to City Hall to secure permits. He acknowledged there are some problems on land ownership, that some buildings were constructed without permits or on lands that are not theirs.
 
Castro said many are apparently waiting for the money they could get from the Marawi compensation law to rebuild their homes.

Medical students stage a play to dramatize the plight of thousands of residents still living in temporary shelters. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

He said the board has yet to decide how to compensate for the businesses and homes that were destroyed in the five-month fighting.
 
Castro said the Lanao del Sur Electric Cooperative has already energized the three sectors of Barangays Tolali, Daguduban and Moncado Kadingilan and that the streets are now lit with solar lights.
 
Task Force Bangon Marawi, tasked by President Rodrigo Duterte to rebuild the city, presented a new sports stadium, a convention center, and newly reconstructed mosques and parks as part of the reconstruction efforts.
 
“All these newly constructed government buildings and mosques are nothing without the residents returning to their homes. The residents did not ask for them,” said Tirmizy Abdullah, national coordinator of the Interfaith Cooperation Forum. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)