MARAWI CITY, Philippines — Loud bombs and gunshots marred the solemn observance of the country’s 119th year of Independence day in this war-torn part of the country.
While singing the national anthem, displaced residents and government officials of Lanao del Sur province heard and saw fighter jets hovering the Capitol around.
Evacuees interviewed by Davao Today found the independence day seemingly “mocking their situation.”
“Nakakalungkot na nagcecelebrate tayo ng araw ng kalayaan tapos parang hindi naman kami malaya, kasi andito lang rin naman kami (It’s very sad that as we commemorate the Philippines Independence Day it’s as if we are not free because we are in this situation),” Noraisa Makalawe, 35, one of capitol’s “transient residents” said during the 8am flag raising ceremony.
For Melanie Dago, another evacuee from Barangay Mapandi in Marawi, independence day “ironically highlighted their lack of independence.”
“Kagaya nitong nangyari sa amin nag-evacuate kami, tapos Independence Day wala kami sa sarili naming bahay, wala kaming kalayaan na gawin yung gusto naming kasi nga dahil dito sa nangyari. Sana lang matapos na (We are not in our homes, we are not free because we cannot do what we want because of what happened, I just hope this ends soon),” she said.
Kadidja Talib, 22 from Barangay Padian of Marawi City, said freedom for them is coming home to Marawi City.
“Siyempre yung makauwi kami sa lugar namin, yung matapos na ang gulo,” she said.
Talib called on President Rodrigo Duterte to order for the stop of aerial bombings. She lamented that “aerial bombings greatly affect civilians.”
“Pwede niya ring pigilan yung mga sundalo, kesa araw-araw pumupunta yung sundalo. Kaya niya yung pigilan kung pipigilan niya. Kasi pati sibilyan nadadamay, wala naming kasalanan (He can order the troops to stop operations, he can do it if he wishes because the civilians get affected),” she said.
Every Monday, government employees attend the flag-raising ceremony, but today was not ordinary.
“We are in a crisis so these are not ordinary days,” said Zia Alonto Adiong, the spokesperson of the Provincial Crisis Management Operations Center of Lanao del Sur.
In his speech during the ceremony, Vice Governor Mamintal Adiong addressed his fellow government workers in Maranao in tears.
“To our Maranao brothers and sisters let us be patient for the return of Marawi to our hands. It is important that we get it back. We are not asking this from the government, what we want is peace,” the official said in local dialect.
He also asked the evacuees for forgiveness if the government cannot provide them all their needs.
“Let us pray to Allah that we survive this calamity in Lanao del Sur. We know we Maranaos here in Lanao del Sur never wanted this to happen,” he said.
During the interview with reporters, Vice Governor Adiong lamented that the fighting in Marawi coincided with the Muslims’ celebration of the holy month of Ramadhan.
“We should be observing the holy month of Ramadhan this month to show the world that Muslims are united in faith. It pains us that we do not have our homes anymore and that we do not have our families with us,” he said.
The government hoped that the crisis in Marawi City will end before the 119th day of the proclamation of the Philippine independence today to “liberate” the city from the ISIS-backed Maute group. But military officials admitted the fighting will take time as they faced difficulty in the war zone.
A total of 58 government troops were killed while 84 were wounded since the fighting in Marawi began. The Army on the other hand, said they have already killed 191 enemies.
In an interview with the media on Sunday in Army headquarters’ Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte said he was “not aware of the gravity” of the problem of terrorism in Marawi.
“Hindi ko naman akalain na ganun kalala kasi now lumabas na si Baghdadi mismo, the leader of the ISIS has specifically ordered terroristic activities here in the Philippines,” Duterte said.
He said government troops are put in a “detrimental position” as the members of the Maute group are deployed on “vantage position.”
“Kumbaga sa away ito, umaakyat ang mga sundalo ko na sila nasa on top of the mountain. So ang target nila, nasa baba, ‘yun ang Armed Forces,” he said.
Duterte said he was not proud, nor happy for declaring Martial Law last May 23 but said the government must prevent the “spillover” as the enemies can run everywhere.
“I am not proud of it. I am not happy with it. But I have to call the soldiers in because they were already occupying a definite territory and governance really has collapsed there in Marawi at saka they were already flying the ISIS flag,” Duterte said. (davaotoday.com)