Marawi evacuees form ‘Return to Marawi’ movement

ILIGAN CITY -- Marawi evacuees in this city created a movement which aims to push the government to end the war soonest so that the displaced Maranaos can return to their homes and rebuild their lives.

Dubbed as “Dansalan Tano sa Kalilintad (Let’s return to a peaceful Marawi),” the movement, led by Muslim religious and traditional leaders, also became a rallying point for highlighting the plight of evacuees whether they stay in evacuation centers or with relatives.

On Sunday, July 23, Defense Secretary and martial law Administrator Delfin Lorenzana, along with six other Cabinet officials, met with the leaders of the movement in a dialogue where they aired out their concerns pertaining to the ongoing war and the plight of evacuees.

On Monday, the Marawi evacuees organized a State of the Bakwits Address as a way of drumming up the concerns of those who have fled the besieged city.

A symbolic return was also planned in time for President Rodrigo Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address but authorities discouraged organizers from pulling it off due to security reasons.

“Going home is the clamor of the Maranaos. This is not just for July 24,” Drieza Lininding, secretary general of the Bangsamoro National Movement for Peace and Development, said.

Doctor Bashari Latiph, president of the Philippine Medical Association in Lanao del Sur, said the urge to return home is rooted in a mix of motivations, from worries over properties to a feeling of guilt that they were not able to defend the city from “intruders.”

Latiph said the reports of cases of looting even in cleared and non-affected areas have increased the desire of many Maranaos to secure go to Marawi even for a day to secure their homes.

“They are just taking chances. Who knows there are valuables left in their houses,” said Latiph.

He added that historically, the Maranaos never left Marawi, citing the time of the wars the Moro people have with the Spanish, American and Japanese invaders.

“It was only now, with these Islamic State militants, that we were forced to evacuate and leave it to the government forces to defend our place. This leaves a psychological scar in each of us,” Latiph explained.

Mohammad Sharief, a volunteer of the Ranao Rescue Team, said that despite government pronouncements that they have been taking care of the evacuees, they are still in need of food and burdening their host families.

This amid the pronouncements of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao officials that government resources to attend to the over 400,000 evacuees would soon deplete, Sharief noted.

Amerodin Cali of Kalimudan Foundation estimated that host families for home-based evacuees have shelled out at least P300 million for their relatives during the first month of the Marawi crisis.

Cali said the estimate is based on the cost of a prisoner meal of P30 per day.

“This is a big loss. Has government come closer to that in terms of investing for the welfare of evacuees?” Cali said.

Official statistics as of July 15, over 430,000 evacuees are staying with relatives, accounting for 93 percent of the more than 460,000 total evacuees. (SunStar Cagayan de Oro)


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