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Do not forget Marawi

Every May 23 since 2018, those involved in the rehabilitation of Marawi — government and civil society alike — launch different activities to showcase results and portray that progress has been achieved and hope is sustained. But, for the internally displaced peoples (IDP) of Marawi, what does this date really symbolize? It’s the day when bombs and bullets rained upon them and razed their beloved city to the ground. For Dr. Rolah Dipatuan-Dimaporo, a medical doctor, an IDP, and a member of the monitoring group Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch, it represents grief that knows no bounds. As long as IDPs are not able to go home, she says, as long as the compensation bill is not passed, and as long as people are not able to resume their lives, May 23 will always represent their collective feelings of discrimination, exclusion, and desperation.

The clamor then and three years hence is that Marawi, the economic center of Lanao del Sur and a vital link in Mindanao’s economy, needs to return to normal life as soon as possible.

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While Marawi residents were allowed to go back to the most affected area (MAA) to repair and rebuild their homes in 2019, the permit was only for the physical reconstruction of their homes, not to live in them. The construction of road networks started in 2020, but the city remains uninhabitable due to the lack of electricity and water supply. Sure, one sees a frenzy of construction in the MAA. However, one can’t help but ask, where are the IDPs? This absence is palpable and stark against a backdrop of buildings, drainage, and road construction, juxtaposed with the rubble of residential houses and nature creeping into the cracks and gaping bullet holes.

A number of issues continue to confront Marawi today. All of these have added to the heavy cost that the Maranao people already bear. Conflict Alert, International Alert’s conflict monitoring system, shows how the highest concentration of clan feuds in the Bangsamoro were in Lanao del Sur, increasing by 64 percent in 2019 compared to the year before. These feuds were fueled mostly by the multi-causal dynamics of personal and political grudges and land conflicts, leading to more clan feuding, illegal drug- and illicit firearm-related incidents, and robberies in the province. This increase presents a worrying reversal for the province, which saw a steep drop in violence in 2018 after the war in Marawi. In fact, incidents of extremist violence involving remnants of the Maute Group caused more deaths in 2019 compared to 2018.

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This reversal to violence does not bode well for Marawi’s post-war recovery. To date, Lanao del Sur also continues to be one of the provinces with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the Bangsamoro. The Maranao people’s income and livelihoods are further limited by lockdown measures. Their demand for just compensation serves as their last hope to be able to rebuild their lives.

However, the Marawi compensation bill is still pending in both Houses and have no funding commitments to this date. If the bill does not get passed before Congress deliberates on the 2022 national budget in August, the Maranao people will have to spend another year without reparation for the damages caused by the war.

Another year of waiting is a step closer to being forgotten. The country should not forget Marawi and its people. To finally go home and rebuild their lives is the ultimate justice for a people victimized by a war not of their own doing.

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Deanne Capiral is advocacy officer and Maureen Lacuesta is senior communications officer of peacebuilding NGO International Alert Philippines.

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TAGS: Commentary, Deanne Capiral, Marawi rehabilitation, Marawi siege, Maureen Lacuesta
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