MANILA, Philippines– “Ignoranteng ignorante ang Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM).”
(Task Force Bangon Marawi is very, very ignorant.)
These were the strong words of Tirmizy Abdullah, associate professor of Mindanao State University (MSU) and an internally displaced person (IDP), directed to the task force currently spearheading rehabilitation efforts in war-torn Marawi City.
Abdullah particularly slammed the government’s plan to erect a 10-hectare military garrison just a striking distance from ground zero.
President Rodrigo Duterte led last January the groundbreaking ceremony of the P400-million military facility which is expected to be completed by 2020.
“Many IDPs are languishing in evacuation centers, but the government’s priority is this military garrison. The money can be used to help people and not this garrison,” Abdullah said in a forum organized by the International Center for Innovation, Transformation and Excellence in Governance (INCITEGov).
Abdullah said the facility further displaces residents.
Several policy papers have already warned of new conflicts to arise, should the government fail to acknowledge the cultural context of land ownership.
“As in many post-conflict case, the option of strictly ‘no title, no return’ policy may feed into extremist narratives of Christian dispossession of Muslim land, and therefore is not recommended,” said the report published by The Asia Foundation (TAF).
Retired general and TFBM chief Eduardo del Rosario previously said problematic titles “should be resolved by the community themselves.”
“We will recognize it. As long as there is a peaceful environment, there is acceptance among the community that this Juan dela Cruz is the rightful owner, then so be it. We will be very compassionate, very understanding,” Del Rosario said. (Q and A: Marawi rehab chief seeks to ease fears of land grabbing)
Meanwhile, Samira Gutoc Tomawis, focal person of the Ranao Rescue Team (RRT), emphasized the need to continue making the military accountable for several human rights violations during and after the siege.
“We saw one hungry [boy], walking alone. Kinuha at tinanong, ‘Maute ka ba?’ Tapos hulog ng init na tubig and then binabatukan ng armas,” Tomawis said.
(We saw a hungry boy walking alone. He was asked, “are you a member of the Maute group?” They threw hot water at him and hit his head with a gun.)