Gov't urged to ensure mental health of Marawi evacuees

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 04 2017 03:57 PM

A covered court at the municipal hall compound of Saguiaran is temporary shelter for 400 families. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

Aside from rebuilding war-torn Marawi City, the government should also ensure that those affected by the conflict have access to medical aid, including mental health services, Senator Sonny Angara said Tuesday.

"The shattered dignity of the Maranaos is more difficult to relieve. It takes more than food or water or even shelter. It needs much more than that to be restored," Angara said in a statement.

"Let's aggressively address the well-being of the evacuees. It is more important to rebuild their souls more than the buildings downtown. When souls are broken, there is no rehabilitating a city because a city is its people," he added.

Angara's statement came amid reports that some Marawi evacuees have shown symptoms of mental health problems.

Angara, one of the authors of the Senate-approved mental health bill, said the crisis in Marawi also highlights the need for a mental health law in the country so that mental health services will be more accessible especially in conflict areas to address trauma.

Clashes in Marawi City erupted last May 23 after government troops tried to arrest Abu Sayyaf top leader Isnilon Hapilon. The firefight has prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in the whole island of Mindanao. 

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court affirmed the President's martial law declaration in Mindanao with 11 magistrates voting in favor of it. Three justices voted to limit military rule within Marawi City and nearby areas while one justice voted to nullify the proclamation altogether.

More than 461 people have been killed in ongoing clashes in Marawi City, among them 337 terrorists, 85 government forces, and 39 civilians.