‘We will not forget…’
These are some of the words etched on a stone marker unveiled on May 23, 2019, on the second anniversary of the Marawi siege.
On May 23, 2017, the people of Marawi were given a horrendous shock through a bloody siege. Their traumatic experience lasted for five excruciating months.
Another marker for the fallen soldiers and police officers was also unveiled last week. This marker was quite flashy and ostentatious looking compared to the drab-looking granite marker prepared by Marawi siege survivors and civil society groups.
The markers represent two disparate versions of the “truth” about the Marawi siege, in which those who have participated in the bombing of the city are honored as heroes. They are also identified, complete with their names and ranks, while the civilians who got killed in the same siege are yet to be named and identified through DNA testing and other forms of documentation.
Soldiers and police officers killed in the siege are also rewarded posthumously with scholarship privileges for the members of their surviving families.
I do not begrudge such rewards for the fallen soldiers. Certainly, they deserve these accolades and remuneration for the sacrifice they rendered in the name of national security.
But nothing of the same scale is given to the nameless civilians who equally gave up their lives for a war they did not cause to happen. Even the right of their survivors to know where their relatives fell, and how they were killed, has been withheld for the last two years. Worse, their memory is being besmirched through government’s tagging of them as part of the more than 900 “terrorists” killed in the siege.
The government’s apathy in documenting and DNA testing the civilians missing in that siege shows a prevalent national government prejudice on the Maranaw, and on Marawi. No less than President Duterte manifested this prejudice in his refusal to expedite government funds for Marawi’s rehabilitation, saying among other things that the Maranaw can do it themselves, because: “Marami man ’yang pera ’yang mga tao diyan. Every Maranaw, there is a businessman. Kasali na ’yang shabu.
May pera sila.”
Is this why government, through the Office of Civil Defense, spent only P10,000 out of the almost P40 million donations for Marawi siege victims? A Commission on Audit (COA) report released last week pointed this out.
Another COA report disclosed that more than P5 billion of the P10 billion fund earmarked for the rehabilitation of Marawi have been spent from 2017 to 2018, leaving more than P4 billion as “unspent” or “underspent” as of 2018 Anak Mindanao party list Rep. Macmod Mending Jr. questioned why the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) has “underspent” this allocation for Marawi’s rehabilitation.
But perhaps the more important question is—how was the P5 billion spent in the name of Marawi’s rehabilitation? Aside from the already tattered tent houses of the displaced families, and some units of transitional shelters in neighboring Saguiaran town, Marawi’s ground zero remains a ghost town. Debris management is still in helter-skelter state, with no definite dates and clear guidelines for its completion.
Yet, government functionaries of the TFBM continue to justify delays in the rehabilitation as part of government’s “standard operating procedures” (SOPs). Now, as before, SOPs have become golden opportunities for spawning and nurturing corruption in government agencies.
The truth of all the issues—before, during, and after the Marawi siege—needs to be unveiled so we will not forget it.
We will make its memory alive for the succeeding generations and we will continue to work toward ensuring that nothing like it will recur in the future.
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