CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – After five years of being kept out, Maranaos are demanding that they be allowed by the government to go back to ground zero of the 2017 Marawi Siege so they could rebuild.
Displaced residents led by civil society groups will stage a rally, dubbed “Limang Taong Bakwit,” around Marawi to dramatize their plight on Monday, May 23, exactly five years after the start of the five-month armed conflict that crippled the city.
Drieza Lininding, chair of the Marawi-based Moro Consensus Group, said protesters would march from Barangay Matampay and pass by Banggolo Bridge which serves as a gateway to the so-called Main Affected Area (MAA).
“We will just pass by because the government does not want the residents to enter the sector that used to be their home,” Lininding said.
He said police have not been tolerant of similar demonstrations in Marawi in the past, and dispersed rallies staged by residents and internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Five months of street fighting between government troops and pro-Islamic State Maute militants, combined with aerial bombardments by the military, have left much of this once-picturesque lakeside city in ruins in 2017.
Nearly five years after the military ended the siege after killing the top militant leaders, sections of Marawi, the predominantly Muslim city, remain uninhabitable.
Task Force Bangon Marawi, tasked by President Rodrigo Duterte to rebuild the city, presented a new sports stadium, a convention center, and newly reconstructed mosques and parks as part of the reconstruction efforts.
The National Housing Authority (NHA) also presented newly constructed permanent and temporary shelters located on the outskirts of the city for the residents displaced by the fighting.
“All these newly constructed government buildings and mosques are nothing without the residents returning to their homes. The residents did not ask for them,” said Tirmizy Abdullah, national coordinator of the Interfaith Cooperation Forum.
Abdullah said the areas where the government constructed the Sarimanok Sports Stadium and convention center was the former site of the bustling Padian market.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in its May 2020 report that more than 120,000 people live in permanent and temporary shelters outside Marawi City. – Rappler.com
Froilan Gallardo is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship