‘Fix’ Marawi on the basis of truth
Truth, according to Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni (1937-2017), the “Godfather of International Criminal Law” and a war crimes expert, “… is an imperative, not an option to be displaced by political convenience…”
The right to truth is premised on the need of victims of violent conflicts and large-scale human rights violations to know what happened to their missing or disappeared relatives; and if they had died, to know the circumstances of their death. This right is a pillar of the Transitional Justice framework that consists of both judicial and nonjudicial mechanisms aimed at redressing gross human rights violations and crimes of impunity committed by state leaders and their agents. Creating Truth Commissions is one such mechanism.
The truth is needed to identify those who need to be held accountable for gross crimes against humanity, and for determining appropriate reparations strategies for victims and survivors to address their claims for justice. In the process, vital security sector reforms also need to be installed to ensure that such gross human rights violations will not recur.
Eliciting the truth is a painful process, to say the least. But it is a pivotal opportunity through which society can hope for a peaceful future built on the principles of healing and reconciliation.
These are huge goals and may not see fruition in our lifetime.
For one, the present national leadership is quite allergic to the process of ferreting out the truth.
The Marawi siege is a tragedy that sorely begs to be explained in full, living color, so to speak, to find out why it happened. Were there no other options that would have led to less collateral damage, and that could have targeted only the “enemies of the state”? Why was it executed hastily, and sustained through five excruciating months?
President Duterte has repeatedly told the Maranaw that he will “fix” Marawi. “Aayusin ko ang Marawi n’yo,” is his way of assuaging local and provincial officials. With time, he said, Marawi will be on its proud feet once again.
Mr. Duterte’s words carry powerful messages, not the least of which is the imminent diminution of the rich Maranaw cultural heritage in the process of “fixing.” It is a pithy message that is pregnant with chilling scenarios, including the possibility of “deleting” the identity of the Maranaw as the once glorious “people of the lake.”
A recent report on Rappler showed that, to date, more than P5 billion has been disbursed for the city’s “relief and reconstruction” process. Such a windfall could have already spelled a huge difference in the lives of the suffering and impoverished Maranaw.
The expenses listed in the Rappler report need to be stringently verified through an independent auditing process. The Maranaw, above all, need to know how much of this grand amount has been spent for the honoraria of officials (none of them Maranaw) spearheading the rehabilitation process, for their perks and travels, for renting a posh office space in Makati, and for cosmetic interventions meant purportedly to start the healing process among survivors.
In the Marawi tragedy, the truth has been displaced for the convenience and imperious desires of politicians who stand to amass pecuniary gains from it. Conscience has no place in the mindset of corrupt and greedy politicians.
The truth about the Marawi siege — before, during and after it — still begs to be told. Unless this is brought out into the open, any kind of “fixing” Marawi will not do the job. Instead, the twin dragons of terrorism and violent extremism will continue to haunt Marawi and the entire Bangsamoro as well.
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