President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration’s top 2 candidates in next year’s elections will be in Marawi on Saturday, October 15, for the 4th anniversary of his declaration of the liberation of the predominantly Muslim city from the Maute group militants in 2017.
But in the neighboring northern Mindanao region, one opposition presidential candidate, Vice President Leni Robredo, is also expected to come to help in the COVID-19 vaccination rollout in nearby Cagayan de Oro City.
It would be the first time for the top candidates to barnstorm Mindanao regions after they filed their certificates of candidacy last week.
Duterte would be accompanied by presidential contender and Senator Ronald Dela Rosa, and vice-presidential bet and Senator Christopher Lawrence Go, official candidates of the administration-backed PDP-Laban wing of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.
Dela Rosa and Go are scheduled to barnstorm in the nearby Lanao del Norte in northern Mindanao as soon as Duterte leaves Marawi, a city under the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Robredo is scheduled to be in Cagayan de Oro earlier in the morning to spearhead her “Vaccine Express” program at the PHINMA-Cagayan de Oro College in Barangay Carmen.
Bencyrus Ellorin, convenor of the Leni Tanging Pagasa 2022 in Northern Mindanao, said Robredo would have lunch with Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Emiritus Antonio Ledesma, and then meet her supporters at the YMCA in Barangay Puntod.
He said Robredo would then proceed to Bukidnon on Sunday. The landlocked province, a political bailiwick of the family of Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri who has been included in the vice president’s 2022 ticket.
Ellorin said Robredo is also set to visit Iligan and Marawi cities on Monday, two days after Duterte’s visit.
Philippine Information Agency coordinator Apipa Bagumbaran said Duterte would inaugurate Marawi’s Grand Mosque that was rehabilitated by the government.
The Grand Mosque, which could accommodate more than 5,000 people, was damaged during the five months of fighting to retake Marawi City from the Daesh-inspired Maute militants.
Bagumbaran said Duterte would also inaugurate facilities like barangay halls and a sports center that were constructed as part of the government’s Marawi rehabilitation program.
Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) and Task Force Bangon head Eduardo del Rosario said the government completed between 75% and 85% of the reconstruction of the bombed-out Marawi as of September 21.
Drieza Lininding, leader of the Moro Consensus Group, said the Duterte-led inauguration would leave a bad taste in the mouth of thousands of Maranaos who have yet to return to their homes in the so-called most affected area (MAA) in Marawi.
“They will have a grand inauguration but after that, what? Maranaos cannot still go back to their homes,” Lininding said.
Marawi civil society leader and Aksyon Demokratiko senatorial candidate Samira Gutoc called on the government to prioritize the return of the displaced residents.
“What I see after liberation is non-liberation,” Gutoc said.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in its May 2020 report, said 120,000 Marawi residents were displaced by the fighting and they still need protection and support. –Rappler.com
Froilan Gallardo is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship