Evacuees are people in dire need

Necessity needs no law. This is especially true to people who fled their homes leaving behind all what belong to them. The first law is how to survive and live. This is what is happening in Marawi City today.

Of course, when the evacuees fled they have succeeded to escape from direct harm’s way in the battle zone of Marawi City where bullets, bombs, and fire rule the day. However, they have not escaped from another harm’s way, this time from hunger, sickness, and shelter, which probably stays longer. This also subjects them to the rule of chance and the mercy of good-hearted fellow human beings and brothers in faith, because they have evacuated mostly in nearby Muslim towns and provinces.

In response to this, but in a very modest way and limited capacity, the MILF has mobilized its members and allied organizations to raise money and supplies especially basic necessities in order to help these evacuees from Marawi City. One cannot dispense with this responsibility.

As of this writing, we have collected a few millions of cash and worth of goods, which were shipped to Marawi City, Baloi, Lanao del Norte, and via the Malabang-Marawi City where sizeable number of evacuees are located. All these efforts are centralized by the MILF’s Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) and are properly coordinated with government agencies that are tasked to undertake necessary relief supplies to the evacuees wherever they are located. They are also linked to the Peace Corridors created by the government and MILF after the meeting between President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Chair Murad Ebrahim and other MILF senior leaders in Davao City on May 29. 

We precisely understand the feeling and needs of these evacuees, because we were also once IDPs ourselves. This is especially true to senior MILF leaders and commanders. Most of them have not returned to their former dwellings since 1973 when the war erupted in Mindanao in February 1973 (in Sulu the war started in November 1972).

However, the evacuees from Marawi City feel more pangs, hardships and bitterness in their hearts, as compared to other Moro IDPs. Most of them have no experience being IDPs. For over 40 years since the war erupted in Mindanao, the people of this city remained virtually unaffected by the fighting, except briefly in October 1972. After that, there has never been no serious displacement, except in recent months where there was fighting between the same Maute group and the military in Butig, Lanao del Sur.

Thus, this relative peace in Marawi City and in Lanao del Sur, in general, gave them the opportunity to progress in leaps and bounds in terms of wealth, education, and government employment, as compared to their Moro brothers and sisters in other provinces especially Sulu, Basilan, Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, and South Cotabato.  The Maranaos (people of the Lake) are virtually everywhere in this country, mostly as traders.

Consequently, there is so much accumulation of wealth by them. Moreover, good private homes, as well as beautiful mosques, abound in Marawi City. They are indeed part of the Moro people’s heritage that must be preserved.

As for the other wealth, especially cash and jewelleries, these are prized commodities that are magnets for those who want to grab them even in harm’s way. We hope the government has a way to secure these.