3 years after siege, Marawi still in ruins - Robredo

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 23 2020 02:14 PM

This aerial photo shows the destroyed Grand Mosque in Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao May 23, 2019. Noel Celis, AFP

MANILA – Vice President Leni Robredo on Saturday called on government agencies to fast-track the rehabilitation of Marawi as the Islamic city remained in ruins three years since it was besieged by terrorists.

In a statement posted on Facebook, Robredo said bombed-out families of the battle-scarred city still lived in temporary shelters after it was liberated from the hands of Islamic State-linked militants in 2017.

“To this day, the city lies in ruins, and its people’s lives are frozen in time,” she said.

The Vice President criticized the government’s alleged inaction and neglect of Marawi as “thousands days too long.”

“Marawi is not merely a tragedy to be remembered; it is an ongoing problem that needs to be solved,” she added.

As the country grapples with the COVID-19 crisis, Robredo said Marawi residents who still live in temporary shelters are at risk of the highly contagious disease

“Any outbreak in these tightly-packed communities will increase the risk for all of us, and affect a public health system that is already under tremendous strain,” she added.

The opposition Liberal Party, which Robredo chairs, also urged the government to allow families to return home. It pegged the number of affected residents at 80,000.

“’Tatlong taon na, bakwit pa rin kami. We cannot understand why the government is still not allowing us to go home.’ ‘Yan ang mga sinasabi nila sa atin. Sana payagan na silang makabalik sa mga tahanan nila at maitaguyod ulit ang kanilang buhay at kabuhayan,” LP president Sen. Francis Pangilinan said in a statement.

('It's been three years and we are still evacuees. We cannot understand why the government is still not allowing us to go home.' That's what they (displaced Marawi residents) are telling us. We hope they will be allowed to come home and support their livelihood and their lives.) 

Pangilinan also supports recommendations made by various Mindanao-based NGOs to expedite the rehabilitation of the conflict-stricken area. 

Among them is designating NGOs as monitoring groups and giving reparation to all Marawi residents and private establishments.

“Following the time of renewal and reflection, may we emerge with a peaceful mind and stronger faith to face the challenges ahead. Humbled by this pandemic, may we come out more compassionate and hopeful people as we proceed to our next journeys,” he said on the commemoration of the start of the 5-month siege, which also falls on the eve of Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Flowers for heroes

Courtesy of the Philippine Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade

Meanwhile, members of the Philippine Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade offered flowers at the "Heroes Wall" for their 168 comrades who died during the siege. 

“Ang atin pong prayers are for the eternal repose ng ating heroes. At pagtawag po ng proteksiyon ng ating Panginoon sa ating kasundalohan at sa pagpatuloy ng kapayapaan na natatamasa ngayon sa probinisya ng Lanao del Sur at Marawi City na ito ay tuloy-tuloy na po para wala nang mag-hamper sa development ng ating probinsiya at siyudad ng Marawi City,” said Col. Jose Maria Cuerpo II, commander of the 103rd Infantry Brigade.

(We are praying for the eternal repose of our heroes. We call on God to protect soldiers and for us to continue to experience peace in Lanao del Sur and Marawi so that the development of the province and the city would no longer be hampered.)

Task Force Bangon Marawi chairperson and Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario said Thursday the government had approved the 2020 budget for the rehabilitation of Marawi, which is pegged at P3.56 billion.

“Kaya umasa kayo na sa pagpasok ng buwan ng Hulyo, full blast na ang paggawa ng mga proyekto,” he said. 

(So expect that by July, projects will go on full blast.)

Firefights between state troops and the Maute group dragged on for 5 months, killing more than 1,000 people, mostly terrorists, and reducing the city to rubble. – With a report from Rod Bolivar, ABS-CBN News