Transitions (1) | Inquirer Opinion
Kris-Crossing Mindanao

Transitions (1)

/ 04:15 AM October 11, 2022

Everywhere I go I am reminded of the unpleasant reality of transitions, both personal and political—not only of myself but of everyone I work with, in my current “changed tires” status.

Sadly, many of these so-called transitions have become permanently entrenched in many people’s lives, and these have become a source of their present discontent and even depression. I am talking about the victims and survivors of two quite devastating sieges in two places in Mindanao: Zamboanga (2013) and Marawi (2017). Between the two, it was the latter that took place from May to October 2017. The one in Zamboanga had a shorter duration of 23 days but while the length of time may be longer in one, the experiences of the victims and their survivors of both incidents are tragic. And both of these were results of the inordinate flexing of the massive military force of the Philippine state.

Transitional shelters, as they are called, are not meant to be long-lasting. At the most, they are supposed to be usable within a year. This means that the government that engendered the military assaults should also ensure that within a year, they are already able to make people return to their former homes. At the very least, the government should already start the rebuilding process of the physical structures of the homes where people used to live in relative peace. But this has not happened, even until now.

Next week, on Oct. 17, is the fifth anniversary of the end of the five-month-long Marawi siege, by former president Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement. Everyone welcomed it, thinking that it was just a five-month-long tragic transition of their lives, as merchants and professionals working in different occupations in the only Islamic city of the country, Marawi. It turned out to be a transition that has led to more transitions in their lives as a displaced population, not of their volition, but of some unilateral decisions made at the national executive level. Such transitions were quite disheartening for many of them, who still have to come to terms with why they were made victims of an assault from the state, targeting only a small group of alleged terrorists that threatened to burn the city down. Many of those who survived think that it is because they are just a portion of the Philippine population (a minority at that) that the national government will not hesitate to order a massive “carpet bombing” of more than 200 hectares of the heart of Marawi. Some of them ask me, rather rhetorically, “if it had been Makati where the Maute made their offensives, would then President Duterte have ordered such a daily military assault?”


But the end of the bombing of Marawi did not mean that the Maute had been decimated. Some of them died in the siege, but it did not end the struggle that their now-departed leaders have started. This is why the war against terrorism, and its related phenomenon of violent extremism, continue to this day. Even international donor agencies are still deeply interested in designing interventions to prevent and counter these phenomena. Some provincial programs are designed with these in mind: the Program Addressing Violent Extremism in Basilan province; the Broad Reform Against Violent Extremism in the island province of Sulu; the Anak na may Ginintuang Layunin upang Hintuan ang Violent Extremism Ngayon in Maguindanao province; the Community Support Program for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism in Lanao del Sur.

The same is also true for the victims of the 23-day Zamboanga siege in 2013. Those who survived it have remained spread out, and some live in semipermanent enclaves of displaced persons in one blighted part of the city. But the horrors these people went through during those crucial transitions in their erstwhile peaceful lives have not been addressed, especially those whose female members of their families were raped at the height of the siege. Stories of their harrowing experiences now remain as a “closed room” in their hearts, waiting to be addressed through a thoroughly thought-out psychosocial intervention program.

(To be continued)

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