DAVAO CITY, Philippines — When the battle between government troops and extremists in Marawi City erupted two months ago, 33 year-old Rosemina Mocsana, a mother of two children aged 11 and 12, evacuated with her family walking an estimate of four kilometers from the Mindanao State University-Marawi City compound going to Saguiaran town in Lanao del Norte to flee from the conflict area. They left their place at 8:00 am and arrive in Saguiaran at 3:00 pm. They had to pause every now and then to let their mother, who was suffering arthritis, rest.
They would later move to Iligan City, where several other families from Marawi City also sought shelter.
Mocsana said they wanted to transfer to a house for rent. But homeowners would discriminate them, making it hard for them to find a new shelter.
Stairways are turned into spaces where other people sleep in a house of a relative hosting 13 families, she said.
In another house, they had to sleep at the terrace.
“During the rain, we have to get up and wait for it to stop before we could sleep again,” she added.
Food, too, was scarce. She said they have experienced several times, lining up for hours to get relief goods, without taking home anything.
It was the reason why Mocsana chose to volunteer for Rescue Ranao Team. Mocsana said, as a volunteer, she can take food to her family at home.
When Congress on Saturday decided to extend Martial Law until the end of the year , Mocsana expressded fear that the discrimination they are experiencing and their stay in Iligan City as evacuees will also be extended.
“We have no problem with the extension of Martial Law, it is for the safety of the majority. But it also means the extension of the discrimination that we experience, and that our stay in Iligan City as evacuees will also be extended,” Mocsana told Davao Today in an interview Monday.
Mocsana and her family are among the 209,062 house-based evacuees as of July 20 displaced by the war.
These are the sentiments of other evacuees shared during the State of Bakwit Address in Iligan City,
In a speech delivered by Omielhaya Sharief, an evacuee from Barangay Marinaut, she said thousands of families like her live in doubt and fear.
“Para sa maraming pamilyang Maranao, dalawang buwan na sa araw-araw na pag-aalinlangan, dalawang buwan na sa araw-araw na pakikipagsapalaran upang magkaroon ng pagkain, gamot at kaunting perang pangtustos sa iba pang pangangailangan (For many of us Maranaos, it has been two months of uncertainty, two months of daily challenge to have food, medicine and a little money to spend for other needs),” Sharief said.
She added that their ”hearts are broken every time they see how the war is taking its toll on their city and its citizens”.
“Sa bawat balita ng pambobomba na aming matunghayan, mabigat ang aming saloobin, nangangamba na baka bahay o tindahan namin ang pinunterya at tinamaan. Paano na ang mga naipundar sa pagod at hirap ng aming mga magulang? Paano nila maitaguyod nang maayos ang kinabukasan naming mga kabataan? (Every news of bombing that we see on television brings sadness, that maybe it’s our home or our store that was hit. What happens to our hard work and labor of our parents? How will they ensure our future as children?)” Sharief asked.
Not the solution
Sharief also said they did not expect the President to make peace with the ISIS-inspired militants, but said their appeal to allow Maranao and traditional leaders to talk with the radical group was left unheard.
She said the talks would have avoided further damage to the city, something that the government’s “militarist” move will not be able to resolve.
Sharief said the problem of violent extremism stems from the societal problems that will not be addressed by the extended Martial Law.
“Ginoong Pangulo, hindi po magwawakas ang problema ng violent extremism at radicalism sa pagkawasak ng Marawi at pagkamatay ng lahat ng ISIS fighters na nandun pa. Una, lumikas napo ang mga matataas na lider nila. Pangalawa, matindi pa ang problema ng ating lipunan na siyang dahilan sa pagkakaroon nila ng mga recruit (Mr. President, violent extremism and radicalism will not end with the death of all Isis fighters that are still there. First, their high-ranking leaders already fled. Second, our societal problems are very serious which are the resaons why they have recruits),” she said.
She said the destruction of Marawi City was ”what the ISIS wants because it views its residents as sinful.”
Space in rehabilitation
Meanwhile, the evacuees have appealed to have a voice on the plan to rehabilitate Marawi City.
The government has set aside P10 billion for the Marawi Recovery and Rehabilitation Program.
Sharief said they hope they will have a space on the government’s program. She said it should be the residents who should set its direction.
“Sa mga balita po, Ginoong Pangulo, nalaman namin na bilyon-bilyon na pala ang nailaan alang-alang sa pagbangon ng Marawi. Saan kaya kami sa proseso’ng ito? May lugar kaya ang aming mga munting pangarap sa magagarang mga blueprint na pinupundar ngayon? (We heard from the news that billions of pesos was alloted to rehabilitate Marawi City. Where will we be in the process?),” she said.
“Gaya po ng paghahanap ng wakas sa krisis, nais namin na marinig ang aming boses sa anumang plano sa pagpapabangon ng aming mahal na Marawi. Kami po ang mga mamamayan dito, kaya kami dapat ang magtatalaga ng direksyon (For example, to resolve the crisis we wish that our voices be heard in whatever plan to rehabilitate our dear Marawi City. We are its citizens so it must be us who shall set the direction),” she added.
Sharief said the rehabilitation of Marawi and Lanao del Sur should not only focus on the physical infrastructure. She said there should be good governance to ensure access to social services which will help in preventing the rise of violent extremism.
“Dapat lumawak ang ispasyo upang ang mga ordinaryong mamamayan ay epektibong makikialam sa takbo ng pamamahala.Ginoong Pangulo, sana matigil na po ang aming araw-araw na pag-aalinlangan. Wakasan na po natin ang digmaan (The space should be enlarged so that ordinary residents can effectively participate in running its government,. Mr. President, we hope our daily uncertainty would stop. End the war,)” Sharief said.
Samira Gutoc Tomawis, one of the conveners of the Ranao Rescue Team and a former commissioner of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission clarified that their action is not an “anti-Duterte” event.
She said the State of the Bakwit Address was held to “provide platforms for the evacuees who cannot go to the Congress to air their grievance.”
Tomawis recently appeared at the Joint Congress session last Saturday in Batasang Pambansa.
She said they want to remind the president that the sorry state of the evacuees shows the effect of Martial Law.(davaotoday.com)