‘Anyare,’ Marawi rehab?
Oct. 17, Wednesday, would have been a day of celebration for Marawi’s thousands of displaced residents. It was the anniversary of the city’s “liberation” from the clutches of terrorists, and it was also the day scheduled for the groundbreaking of the city’s rehabilitation and reconstruction. Finally, thousands of people who continue to live in tents in Saguiaran town in Lanao del Sur and in other places in Mindanao and elsewhere will have something to look forward to — to go back home in the very near future.
But, the groundbreaking ceremonies to be led by no less than President Duterte never happened. This was the nth
postponement of the much-ballyhooed groundbreaking for the rehabilitation of the city after the Marawi siege last year.
Displaced residents have repeatedly called the attention of the government to allow them to go home; the latest of which was Wednesday’s huge march toward the areas that heavily bore the brunt of the five-month siege. Messages printed on tarpaulins expressed the displaced residents’ heightened emotions of their continuing displacement, invariably appealing that they be allowed to go back home.
Several civil society leaders have also collectively written letters of appeal to President Duterte to let them go back home through a social media campaign dubbed #LetMeGoHomeMovement. They have also produced a video where the displaced residents made an emotional appeal to make them “people of the lake” once again. Right now, they have become the “people of the tents.”
Aside from being poor excuses for a home, the tents have made the displaced residents prisoners of a space that has become a disabling environment for them to eke out a decent livelihood and to continue being devout Muslims.
Livelihood opportunities in the tent cities are nil, and accessing water for both daily food needs and ablution before prayers has been quite problematic in the areas of evacuation. This is not to mention that their indigenous mechanisms of social protection — their extended families that are now scattered in different evacuation areas and in different places in Mindanao — are no longer readily available unlike before the siege.
Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) has repeatedly claimed that plans for the Marawi rehabilitation will “bring our Maranaw brothers and sisters back to their homes in the most affected area safely, at the soonest possible time, to an environment that is modern Islamic and culturally sensitive.” But early on, even before the so-called liberation happened, a local group tasked by both the provincial government of Lanao del Sur and the city government of Marawi submitted a joint recovery, rehabilitation and peace-building plan to TFBM. But in the preliminary plans presented to the Maranaw, the locally crafted plan is nowhere to be found. Instead, TFBM chair Eduardo del Rosario presented glossy images of a resort-themed modern city. To this, the Maranaw residents asked: Where is the culturally sensitive plan for us? Is this what they call a “modern Islamic city”? And who is to say that such envisioned modern city is Islamic? Is it TFBM, which does not have a single Maranaw or Muslim in its decision-making body? Anyare, Marawi rehab?
Kyoto, Japan: Before my guest lecture to an international class at the Ritsumeikan University, I asked the young students on what they know about the Philippines. One French student said: “I don’t understand why your President likes to order the killing of people who are just staying on the streets because they have no work, or people who are victims of drug addiction…” To his remark, I quipped: “I don’t understand him either.” And nobody probably does.
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