Gov't urged to hasten Marawi rebuilding

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 26 2017 03:00 PM | Updated as of Jun 26 2017 03:01 PM

This is what a war zone looks like: bombed-out and bullet riddled buildings, destroyed vehicles and debris on the streets. This photo was taken in Brgy. Lilod in Marawi by the PNP Regional Police Security Battalion ARMM. ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Philippine government should speed up rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi City and reconsider a purely military approach against Islamist extremists to prevent similar attacks in the future, Mindanao policy experts said.

President Rodrigo Duterte's martial law could vanquish Maute terrorists in Marawi, but it would not be enough to discourage more young Muslim Filipinos from embracing violent extremism later on, said lawyer Benedicto Bacani, executive director of the Cotobato-based Institute for Autonomy and Governance.

Bacani urged the president to create an independent commission to study Marawi's rehabilitation and determine what was driving the rise of violent extremism in the southern Philippines based on "solid data."

"You cannot rely on just martial law -- this is a stop-gap measure," he told ABS-CBN News.

"There will be more young people joining these extremist groups unless government can really have a comprehensive solution to the problem."

Foreign extremists are trying to "hijack" local groups that have taken up arms partly because of "social inequities," defense analyst Jose Antonio Custodio told ANC's Early Edition.

Custodio said the government should expedite rehabilitation to avoid "disenchantment" among people affected by the clashes.

Fighting has dragged on for weeks killing close to 400 people, mostly Islamist militants, and sending tens of thousands to evacuation centers.

Malacañang earlier announced a P10-billion budget for Marawi's rehabilitation.

"The key now is fast relief," Custodio said. 

An official of a London-based group assisting victims of violent conflicts warned that mishandling the Marawi crisis could sow "the same seeds of extremism in Marawi and elsewhere."

Francisco Lara Jr., Philippine director of International Alert, cited what he called an emerging "humanitarian crisis" reflected in poor conditions in evacuation centers.

"People are thinking that the more important issue now is trying to do away with the extremists so much of the response has been security in nature," he told ABS-CBN News. 

"There is no nuancing at all."

Lara cited the need for a dialogue among local religious leaders to help drive away local terrorists, and psychosocial works among people in evacuation centers.