IT WAS disturbing to listen to the stories of two women from Central Mindanao last Sunday as they related the life of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Yes, the government may repeatedly say it has already ordered the return of IDPs or bakwits to their villages, but there are still hundreds stuck in those cramp temporary settlements.

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What's disturbing is that, officially, they no longer exist. In fact, the National Disaster Coordinating Council website's last entry about the IDPs in Mindanao was in July 2009, almost a year ago.

More disturbing is the claim of these evacuees that the relief cards they were given at the evacuation center have already been marked "returned", even though the promise of assistance for them to start a new life has never been delivered.

Who's to blame here?

Obviously, no one will own up; not the national government, not the Department of Social Welfare and Development, not the other agencies. Because, as far as official statements are concerned, the evacuees have long gone home.

The problem that government did not even care to look into is... where is home?

When the residents fled their homes, they fled because their villages were being bombed. Several of their homes were left in splinters, those that were not were burned. But again, no one will ever own up. No one will ever say they had a hand in burning or bombing those homes.

For as long as government is concerned, the conflict out there has long ended. There is no reason to stay on in evacuation centers. Never mind if your home has been blasted to smithereens during the months you were in the center. Never mind if all your farm animals have all died or have wandered off during your absence. Never mind if you have already lost all your farm implements during your one year stay in the evacuation center. Never mind if you cannot even afford to buy a kilo of nails and a piece of plywood to start to build a home with.

Government doesn't want to be bothered by these details. All it is concerned about is that the bombing has stopped, ergo, the evacuees are now home.

No wonder then that Aling Patria, one of the women IDPs, break down in tears no matter how many times she tries to tell the story of how they fled their village. No wonder then that all they can repeatedly say is, "Lisod ang mahimong IDPs."

You need to lose your homes, lose your source of livelihood, and lose your ability to fend on your own to understand what it is that keeps them tied to the cramped evacuation camps that should have only been a temporary shelter.

It's disheartening that for the sake of expediency, government has made everyone believe that there are no more IDPs in Central Mindanao, knowing full well that by stating such, we have relegated thousands of families to dire poverty. By denying their existence, we deprive them of assistance and attention.