Rebuild hopes and homes in Marawi: A Christmas wish

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‘TIS NOT the season for corruption, injustice and ignorance to prevail, especially when 60,000 families displaced due to the Marawi crisis are still suffering from trauma and subject to the poor conditions in evacuation centers months after the government declared them “liberated.”

Although the death of militants Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute and withdrawal of Islamic State-linked fighters in Marawi signaled the Philippine military’s victory in war last October, there is still fear and hopelessness among the Marawi people. It has been three months since the President declared the military victory in Marawi, but there has been no concrete step yet toward rehabilitation. All that it has done has been to extend martial law in Mindanao for another year, a dubious move constitutionally.

The government has promised a “full-swing rehabilitation” for Marawi. Verbal promises, however, do not cover wounds of disappointment, especially when our officials are proneto repeating the mistakes committed during the rehabilitation of cities in the Visayas destroyed when Typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines in 2013.

Four years have passed yet only 38 percent or 78,291 houses of the 205,128 targeted
number of permanent housing units have been constructed and only 12.79 percent of the
houses are actually occupied by beneficiaries. Only less than half of the housing demand of
the victims are completed and thousands of families are still homeless. According to the National Housing Authority (NHA), the coordination between the local government and the national government in identifying, listing and validating the identity of the beneficiaries was a problem in both building and distributing permanent housing for the survivors. This is because the typhoon hit six regions or about 14 provinces with 171 towns and cities. It was a “massive scale of devastation,” NHA officials said.

It took the government a year to plan and gather data before starting reconstruction.
Although officials claimed that they prioritized the subsistence of the affected citizens, it is still highly questionable that little progress has been made.

Like in the provinces hit by Typhoon Yolanda, the rehabilitation of Marawi City also needs to start from scratch.

The city, known as the country’s Islamic capital, is severely damaged, with almost all of its buildings left in ruins. Images of Marawi’s edifices circulating online, verified of course, look almost entirely destroyed and deprived of life. Rubble now occupy where schools, buildings, churches and mosques once stood. Aerial and land bombardment wiped out almost all residential houses. “All of our effort and all our belongings are gone,” 77-year-old Marawi resident Hadj Esmail Abaton told the Wall Street Journal.

Abaton is one of the few residents able to return to where there homes one stood. Other residents, however, said they did know what happened to their homes as most of the areas were still closed because of land mines.

Government said it needs P10 billion to rebuild Marawi. The question here is why government isn’t moving despite the P5 billion already approved and why it is demanding more. When the budget was approved, government still cannot proceed with its “plans” in rebuilding because apparently, officials still have to discuss their “comprehensive projects.” It is already December yet we still lack concrete and feasible plans for Marawi. We cannot prolong
the agony. Displaced residents cramped in evacuation centers are dying. Maranao children live in fear, probably traumatized; they fear going back to school after witnessing bombs drop nearby their classrooms. There are reported instances on food blockade, continuous threats and land-grabbing.

Again, we cannot prolong our countrymen’s agony.

And extending the martial law in their area only worsens the situation. The declaration is not a question of whether the Mindanaoans are in favor of martial law but rather a question of whether it is even allowed by law.

The 1987 Philippine Constitution requires an act of invasion or rebellion before allowing the government to put an area of the nation under martial law.

Malacañang said it needed to extend martial law in order to “quell the continuing rebellion in Mindanao” and “eradicate local or foreign terrorist groups.” Is the Malacañang admitting that
the military cannot do its job without putting the whole area under martial law?

I do not see any significance of the decision. We can deploy the military to take charge in protecting the stricken land even without martial law. We can rebuild Marawi and reach out to our countrymen even without martial law. Not much can really be done by the unconstitutional declaration.

Instead of tinkering with martial law, government should rebuild Marawi. Martial-law declarations are clearly the product of self-inflated egos and base personal agendas.

Like what happened to the Yolanda victims, government is merely aggravating the tragedy
of Marawi by extending martial law and dilly-dallying with rehabilitation.

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