IT has been eight months since the war between the government forces and Maute terror group erupted in Marawi City, but displaced residents or the evacuees are still asking: "why they can't return home yet?"
Aida Ibrahim, spokesperson of Moro group Tindeg Ranao, said of the 15,000 displaced Marawi residents, some 7,000 residents are still in evacuation centers who are both hungry for food and hungry for a taste of home.
This, even as Ibrahim claimed that the government has stopped sending relief goods to evacuation centers for almost a month now.
She said evacuees are wary that they might not be able to go home with the government introducing "temporary shelters."
"They said it's not safe to go back yet but why do we see tourists, celebrities taking selfies in the ground zero, even Mocha Uson took a selfie in a Masjid, but why is it that if we ask them to allow us to enter, they say it is still not safe?" Ibrahim said.
Ibrahim also lamented the lack of public participation of the rehabilitation talks.
"We always hear plans that they are going to make Marawi a tourist destination, but we hear no plans on the actual rebuilding of our homes destroyed by airstrikes," she added.
Sister Theody Bilocura of the Missionary Benidictine Sisters said she fears that the Marawi residents might become strangers to their own land.
Peter Murphy of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) meanwhile pointed out that one of the barriers for 'bakwits' to return home is the martial law declaration.
Murphy said the ICHRP is monitoring the "many gross abuses of abuses committed against farmers, Indigenous People, human rights advocates, and media people under the cloak of martial law".
"Civil liberty is such an important time in Mindanao now more than ever, and so the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines is here to make sure that the voices of the evacuees of the Marawi City are heard internationally, the secret is not kept here," he said.
The said groups held a candle-lighting on Wednesday afternoon at the Press Freedom Monument to echo their call for justice.
Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on February 23, 2018.