MARAWI CITY, Philippines – While the rest of the Christian Filipinos celebrated the Holy Week in church festivities, thousands of Meranaw residents in this Islamic city staged a symbolic protest to condemn the slow-paced government rehabilitation of their homes ravaged by war.”
What happened to us was unfair. The government should have prioritized us and attended to our needs. If they are deaf and blind to our call, then we will continue with our struggle, said Khan Anwar Marabuk Jr., a former city councilor who rescued Christian residents during the start of the Marawi siege in May last year.
Residents organized under Ranaw Multisectoral Movement bearing protest placards and tarpaulin streamers gathered together early Friday morning in an activity dubbed as Mbalingan or Coming Home.
At 8 am, they started to march the main streets of the city towards the Ground Zero where they were supposed to hold a Jumaat prayer or the Friday Congregational Prayer in time for the azhan.
But leaders were dismayed when military troops and police forces prevented them from entering the war-ravaged Ground Zero. Some evacuees who were set to join the protect action were also banned from entering the city.
After negotiating with the state forces by around 10 clock in the morning, the residents were allowed to pass through and hold their prepared program and the Jumaat prayer.
Nasrullah Macabalao who is from Ground Zero and one of the leaders of Ranaw Multisectoral Movement said during the program, What we are doing is just. For a long time now, they forgot to ask us what we want. And what we want is to go back home without condition. We want to claim our land and continue our lives as peaceful citizens of Marawi.”
Col. Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Task Force Marawi told residents at the rally that they will be allowed to visit their former homes at Ground Zero by April 1.
Jawad Pacalundo said they “as victims have rights to safe, dignified and access to homes without any pre-conditions.
“I am so heart-broken. They don’t want us to go back to our houses even after the President declared liberation and the end of the siege. They only let actors and foreigners in and out of Ground Zero like tourists taking pictures of our home,” lamented Pacalundo.
He told Davao Today that what “we want is not just visitation to check on our houses but also to see the progress of the rehabilitation.
He said the government’s rehabilitation program at the Ground Zero was made without benefit of a public consultation.
The Ranaw multisectoral movement rejected the proposed rehabilitation plan of governments Task Force Bangon Marawi, saying it consisted of the installation of P400 million-worth military garrison.
The military barracks is expected to accommodate around 3,500 soldiers alongside the construction of an economic zone.
MSU History Prof. Tirmizy Abdullah also criticized the government rehabilitation plan saying it did not consider the sentiments of the Meranaws who are still suffering from the effects of war.”
The military garrison is a threat to our culture and religion. It will bring no good to the Meranaws who have lived peacefully in Marawi. We are taught by our ancestors to protect our land. We may be poor but it is instilled in our minds that the land of Meranaw is important. It is our identity and our culture, said Abdullah.
In a statement released by Ranaw Multisectoral Movement, they appealed to the President that the people should lead in the rehabilitation of their homes and the entire city.
“We appeal to you (President) to help us rebuild according to our will, in pursuit of the will of Allah. Please put a stop to the proposed ecozone and military camp, Ranaw said.
The group said about 100,000 Meranaw residents continue to be refugees staying in different evacuation centers and houses of their kin outside of Marawi. (davaotoday.com)