With less than a week before the 4th year anniversary of the Siege of Marawi on May 23, we, members of various civil society organizations along with Marawi leaders and community partners from Mindanao belonging to the network called Marawi Advocacy Accompaniment (MAA) today urge the Philippine government to accelerate its efforts on rebuilding the City of Marawi and prioritize the immediate, safe and dignified return of the displaced communities back to their places of origin.
On the occasion of remembering those who have fallen during the siege four years ago, we once again stand in solidarity and mourn with the peoples of Marawi, who, up to this day, are enduring the profound and unceasing pains of that tragic incident that resulted to unnecessary loss of innocent lives, livelihood, displacement of thousands of families and reduced much of the once beautiful Marawi City to rubble.
A lot of promises have been made by the government and particularly by the Task Force Bangon Marawi, an inter-agency task force group tasked to facilitate Marawi’s rehabilitation, recovery and reconstruction. Four years after the siege, most of those promises including providing just compensation for the damages of livelihood and properties of the affected families and the immediate return of the displaced back to Marawi remain unfulfilled. President Duterte’s promise saying ‘I will see to it that Marawi will rise as a prosperous city again’ remains a punch one liner which can’t make both ends meet for the affected communities.
As of last year, a total of 25,355 families (126,775 individuals) are still reportedly displaced in various parts of Lanao province and Marawi City in the aftermath of the 2017 siege according to the Mindanao Displacement Dashboard of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Hundreds of Marawi IDPs remain in temporary shelter communities and others are living elsewhere in tightly packed communities, which make them more vulnerable to the continuing onslaught of the COVID19 pandemic. Also, some IDPs have migrated to the National Capital Region (NCR) and other parts of the country. This multiple-displacement aggravated by the government’s slow rehabilitation and reconstruction program has deprived the bakwits of much needed opportunities for economic survival amid the pandemic period.
The government cannot deny that the rehabilitation of Marawi City is now proceeding at a very slow pace despite the availability of resources amounting to 3.56 billion pesos ($73.38 million) for the reconstruction of Marawi. For us, the delays coupled with the neglect of the voices of communities in the city’s ‘ground zero’ contribute further not only to the trauma still being endured by the bakwits of the siege but also to the century-old narrative of marginalization, discrimination and exclusion and social deprivation.
It took five months for the armed conflict to destroy Marawi’s business district—the Dansalan of old—which was the center of Maranao life for centuries. Now, we can’t help but ask: How long will it take for the government to rebuild Marawi? When will the residents of Marawi be allowed to come home? If what’s happening in the whole management of Marawi’s rehabilitation and reconstruction including the prolonged displacement of communities is not negligence of the government’s sworn duty, what else should we call it?
Today, we also call on the Philippine government to fast track the passage of concrete legislations for Marawi’s rehabilitation, protection and compensation for the internally displaced persons. The smooth passage of these proposed measures which must genuinely reflect and recognize the fundamental rights and heroism of the peoples of Marawi is a crucial step to help Marawi get back on its feet and provide justice to the victims of the siege.
Remembering the Marawi Siege four years ago is a painful process especially for those who have lost their loved ones, properties and prospects for a better future. Truth, justice and accountability must be pursued within a transitional justice framework to comprehensively address the roots of conflict.
Surfacing the narratives of the victims of Marawi siege and advocating for the demands of the affected communities and the IDPs are critical struggles that must be sustained as they are part of the still incomplete realization of the genuine peace and social justice as critical ingredients of the whole Bangsamoro peace process.
Rebuilding Marawi should go beyond building large-scale public infrastructures. Rebuilding Marawi is about rebuilding the lives of the people there. Rebuilding Marawi should mean rebuilding homes and livelihood necessary for the safe and dignified return of the IDPs to their beloved city. Rebuilding means retelling and repairing the harms done especially for the missing, dead and even those who were wrongly detained at the height of the siege. Rebuilding the city back to its old glory requires honouring its inhabitants—their heroism, their culture and faith, their optimism and resilience. Rebuilding Marawi should mean utmost recognition that #BakwitLivesMatter.
Community solidarity for safe and dignified return for MeraNOW! #MarawiKambalingan