Thousands of Meranaw residents in Marawi City stage a symbolic protest to condemn the slow-paced government rehabilitation of their homes ravaged by war on Friday, March 30, 2018. (Kath M. Cortez/

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Calling it as an insult to the Maranao people, the youth group League of Filipino Students (LFS) has condemned the “Kambisita” program aimed at allowing the civilians to briefly visit their communities in the war-ravaged Marawi City.

“Kambisita” was initiated by the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TBF) and the city’s local government that gave the displaced residents a time to take a look at their homes. It was started on April 1 and was done by clusters.

“It is insulting to the people of Marawi that after almost 11 months of being forced out of their homeland and staying in evacuation centers, all they could do is look at their homes and try to salvage whatever was left,” said Abdul Jalil Datuan, chairperson of the LFS chapter based in Mindanao State University, Marawi, in a statement on Saturday, April 14.

What is equally appalling, Datuan said, is that the displaced residents are now treated as mere visitors in their own land and are forced to surrender their homes to the “bloody hands of the military and the fascist US-Duterte administration.”

“The ‘kalilintad tano’ only deepens the wound in the hearts of the siege victims,” he added. “Kalilintad tano” is a Maranao term which translates as “our peace” in English.

“It is more enraging to the people to see their properties turn into rubble and devastations; and additional insult to the injury. All their lives, Meranaws have lived and protected Marawi City; but where is this government taking the only Islamic City that we have?” he said.

LFS has also accused the Duterte administration of favoring the huge capitalists in the reconstruction efforts of Marawi.

“This administration is ready to sell the land of the Bangsamoro to big businesses at the expense of the residents. There was no grassroots participation of the victims in the rehabilitation plans of the war-stricken city. If ever the residents are even allowed back to the Islamic city, would it still be the place they called home?” Datuan said.

He added: “We call on the youth and the Bangsamoro to turn our grief into rage. Rage that is not blinding – but rage that is productive. Rage that is purposeful and will propagate resiliency of the Meranaws – their strength and love for Marawi city. We must channel our disappointments and disheartenment and call for the return of the evacuees to Marawi City.”

Financial aid

In order not to prolong the displaced Marawi residents’ suffering, it would be best if the government just give them the funds so they can immediately rebuild their homes destroyed due to the fighting between state forces and extremists last year, Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito suggested.

He said his committee has considered that option as it would be advantageous to both the government and internally displaced persons (IDPs) of Marawi.

Ejercito chairs the Senate committee on urban planning, housing and resettlement.

Ejercito, who was here to attend the graduation rites of a state-run university recently, said he does not want the Marawi residents experience the same plight of the survivors of past disasters like Pablo and Yolanda who until now have not been properly relocated yet because of the delay of the government in finishing the housing projects for them.

“One option is to provide financial assistance to the Marawi victims to [rebuild] their homes, to make it faster. If you rely on government to build the houses, it would take years. Just look what happened to Yolanda and Pablo. Until now ‘di pa rin tapos (it has not been completed yet),” he added, referring to the housing projects built by the government for the survivors said calamities.

By providing the Marawi residents with the financial assistance to reconstruct their dwellings, the senator said it would satisfy the need of the IDPs and discourage them from joining extremist groups.

“I think it can even pave the way to lasting peace. The extremist will lose an instrument, an issue [they can use to recruit], if you rehabilitate Marawi properly,” Ejercito added.

Meanwhile, in an interview during his latest visit to Marawi, TBFM head Eduardo del Rosario has assured that the government will not take away private lots, both titled and non-titled, from their owners.

The TBFM chief calls these fears of the Marawi residents as “speculation” and “has not basis at all.”

Del Rosario said the affected civilians will be allowed to build structures on their lots and that TBFM is creating a land dispute arbitration committee to address the issue of multiple claimants on a single private property. (

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