Marawi rehabilitation

[OPINION] Mr President, please allow the Meranao to go back home amid the threat of COVID-19

Drieza Lininding
[OPINION] Mr President,  please allow the Meranao to go back home amid the threat of COVID-19
'We Meranao have not been able to get up from the blow that has sunk us to our knees. We just continue to be struck by tragedy after tragedy.'

Dear Mr. President,

Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim.

May Allah protect and guide you in this most challenging time.

We, a group of civil society partners from Marawi, are writing to you on behalf of our fellow Meranaos who still remain displaced 3 years after the siege. We request that you fast-track our return to our homes in Marawi’s most affected area (MAA) amid the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, and ensure that the rehabilitation of our city remains on track. 

It was on June 28, 2017 when you created the Task Force Bangon Marawi to lead the rehabilitation, recovery, and reconstruction efforts in the city. It was 3 years ago when we were all buoyed with hope when you, the first Mindanaoan president, with Meranao blood, promised that you will clear the rubbles of combat so we could soon return to our homes and rebuild our lives. (READ: Robredo urges gov’t to end ‘3 years of inaction and neglect in Marawi’)

“One thing I will promise you, my brother Moro, I will see to it that Marawi will rise as a prosperous city again,” you said. 

It was a beautiful promise, backed with a budget of P60.5 billion, according to the Department of Budget and Management – P22 billion of which will be coming from the Philippine government – and plans for Marawi to rise from the ashes.

“Meaningful and long-term support will also be made available, with the help of our partners in the private sector and the international community,” you said.

<h1>Status of Marawi’s rehabilitation</h1>

Three years on, however, those promises seem to be empty rhetoric. Most of us Meranao remain displaced – a total of 25,367 families or 126,835 individuals – with 2,954 families in transitory shelters. 

The clearing of unexploded bombs and debris in Ground Zero is still to be completed. The implementation of rehabilitation projects is bogged by a lot of delays and red tape. Currently, there are 56 government agencies that are part of the TFBM, and navigating all approvals, signatures, and budget releases are tedious. As for the funds, some have been returned to the treasury, some releases were declared unauthorized by the Commission on Audit, while some funds, especially those donated by other countries, remain unaccounted for. 

Meanwhile, TFBM chairman and Housing Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario claims in an interview this early June that the rehabilitation of Marawi City would be completed within the target deadline of December 2021. “I was assured that we are on the right track despite itong 3 months na hindi tayo nakapagtrabaho masyado,” Del Rosario said.

We wonder how the good Secretary can make those claims when reality on the ground belies it?

Samantala, ang mga Meranao po ay patuloy na nahihirapan sa aming sitwasyon na lalo pang pinalala ng pandemya ng COVID-19. Yung mga nakatira sa transitory shelters ay hindi sapat ang access sa tubig na kinakailangan para masunod ang mga panuntunan kontra COVID-19. Paano rin po kami makakapag-social distancing kung kami’y nagsisiksikan sa mga transitory shelters o sa mga pinapanuluyang bahay ng aming mga kamag-anak? Marami po sa amin ay walang trabaho o maayos na kabuhayan kung kaya’t hindi po namin lubos maisip papaano itataguyod ang kinabukasan ng aming mga anak. Dagdag dito, noong gabi ng ika-26 ng Hunyo, may mga kapatid pong Meranao na apektado ng landslide sa relocation site ng Barangay Boganga, Marawi City. Mabuti na lamang na walang isa man sa kanilang nasaktan.

All these emphasize the sad reality that ever since the siege, we Meranao have not been able to get up from the blow that has sunk us to our knees. We just continue to be struck by tragedy after tragedy. We just hope that the government, especially you Mr. President, will come through for us and keep your promises.

<h1>Our call</h1>

Hayaan nyo na kaming makabalik sa aming mga tahanan sa MAA. Ang pandemyang ito ay nagbigay-diin sa halaga ng pagkakaroon ng sariling tahanan kung saan mas maaalagaan namin ang ang aming mga pamilya at masisigurong malusog at ligtas laban sa sakit. 

The next State of the Nation Address is again upon us. We know that COVID-19 and its impacts on the country will dominate your speech. Our only request is for you not to forget us, not to forget Marawi. 

Please instruct your people, especially Secretary Del Rosario, to do their jobs. They have failed you and they have failed us, every single time. Give them the ultimatum, if that is what will push them to actually work and ensure that the deadline for the completion of the Marawi rehabilitation is met.

We know how passionate you are to leave a legacy for Marawi. We hope that it will indeed become a reality, for sake of us Meranao.

Sana nga pakinggan nyo ang aming hinaing, Mr. President. Gusto na naming mag-Balik Marawi.

Sincerely yours,

(Sgd)
Samira Gutoc
Ako Bakwit
Ranao Rescue Team

(Sgd)
Zahria Linky Mapandi
Al Mujadilah Development Foundation, Inc.

(Sgd) 
Tirmizy Abdullah
Interfaith Cooperation Forum – Philippines

(Sgd) 
Drieza Lininding
Moro Consensus Group

(Sgd) 
Sultan of Marawi Hamidullah Atar
Reconciliatory Initiatives for Development Opportunities, Inc.

– Rappler.com

Drieza Lininding is the chairperson of the Marawi-based Moro Consensus Group. He is also one of the convenors of the Balik Marawi network.