Return Marawi Evacuees

When tragedy strikes, everybody suffers. The tragedy that struck Marawi City on May 23, 2017 is an example. But as in all tragedies, the civilians suffer most because they are the most vulnerable.

Right now, the evacuees who have fled the fighting between the government and ISIS-inspired Maute group have not yet returned to their homes. Most are still in evacuation centers and are only depending on dole-outs and supplies to survive.

There are several reasons for this delay for their return, first, they have no houses to return to, all were either burned or devastated, second, ground zero is still no-no for them, and third, rehabilitation, recovery and reconstruction take some time to get full speed.

While we know the sincere efforts of the Duterte administration in addressing the effects of this tragedy, but we think there is still room for suggestions or improvements. One is the need to earnestly convey the message that there is nothing being cooked up in ground zero that disadvantaged the evacuees. Perhaps, there is wisdom in including the local government in Marawi City in the Task Force Bangon Marawi which is a government inter-agency task force group organized to facilitate the rehabilitation, recovery and reconstruction efforts in the devastated city. Also, the role of an apolitical body like the ulama-professional group in the task force is perhaps worthy of consideration. They can help provide correct and concrete information that can be fed to the people at large. This is very important, because oftentimes people conclude, or act merely based on perception or speculation.

Honestly, we want to help preserve the credibility of the president among the Bangsamoro people especially among the Maranaos. There were many presidents before him, but he is the only one who has a Moro blood in his veins and whose policies clearly speak of the urgent need to correct the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people. Currently, while it is not yet in the basket, 8because both the old and new spoilers are on a warpath, signs for the eventual passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) are piling up.

This concern is the reason why we are speaking up through this very modest medium, so that people will know where the MILF is solidly standing on. It is no secret that many people lashed at the MILF for allegedly doing so little during the Marawi Siege. We responded by saying that the MILF had done the best it can under the given situation. If others offered combatants, the MILF humbly offered – and did – humanitarian intervention, which earned the appreciation of the people including the international community.

On top of these all, there is a need to return the evacuees to their places of origin as soon as possible and to fast track the legal process to effect the distribution of lands in Marawi City, which is a military reservation, to the original and legitimate occupants. This is one of the greatest fears of the Maranaos that the government is up to confiscate their lands because it is a military reservation.