HANDLING conflicts as well as mitigating them before conception is a duty of a barangay official. Last year, the Marawi Siege, before it sparked, could have been thwarted at the level of the barangays.
About a year ago, most people – probably including barangay officials – already knew that a rebellion was brewing in Marawi. Yet there were no clear maneuvers done by the immediate officials in charge of the communities.
In the level of the barangay, hearsays like an ISIS-inspired uprising could have already been reported to the military in its early stages of formation for confirmation. The barangays should have coordinated with the military to get intel about meeting places, plans, or potential members of the Maute rebel group.
However, even though information about the dates, even the exact time of the launch of the revolt, and warnings about what may happen were already circulating among some people within the city, the presence or coordination of any barangay in Marawi was barely visible that time.
Meranaws pride themselves of their large families. Among big clans, information and intel are disseminated among relatives. Some members of the daesh rebels had already warned their relatives who were not involved with the group regarding the upheaval. This is why some information about the siege had already leaked among some people.
The barangay officials could have made use of this information to warn the authorities about the incoming conflict. Yet maybe some refuse to speak about the rebellion because they felt invincible, feeling that the harms of the rebellion would not reach them, or possibly, out of fear.
Some may have also underestimated the degree of damages the rebellion could do. They thought it would only be like the time when the Mautes set fire to the Lanao del Sur Provincial Jail on August 2016, or just another rido (clan war).
No matter the size of the conflict, the barangay officials should have been able to reduce the problem, since the community’s safety is also one of the duties they have sworn to uphold.
There were already a few foreign nationals spotted in Marawi and Mindanao State University, along with news that ISIS and Al-Queda members are trying to recruit members in Mindanao. Still, there was a lack of vigilance and monitoring for these entities in the level of the barangays.
There have already been Al-Queda members caught in Marawi City, according to the news. In the heat of the rumors spreading in Marawi about an ISIS group forming in the city, there was still a lack of monitoring of people who go in and out of the barangays.
It could have been good if the barangay has a clear inventory of the names of the residents. But in some barangays in Marawi, requesting for a Barangay Certificate is done in the homes of the barangay captains where the house also doubles as a barangay hall because the barangay had none.
When I requested for a barangay clearance one time here in Marawi, I was no longer asked for my identity – whether or not I really am a resident of that barangay – nor was the log book checked for any blotter reports about me. This may have also been the case for others who went to their office for the same reason.
To the new barangay officials elected: The safety of your barangay and even your whole city or town starts at your area of responsibility. Know your residents and feel the pulse of safety issues in your barangays.
If Marawi had a more responsible set of barangay officials who directed safety initiatives and transmitted information to the authorities, an insurgency in Marawi could have been avoided.