3 years after siege, let Marawi residents return to their homes: Liberal Party

THREE years after the bloody Marawi siege, the city’s almost 80,000 families should be allowed to return to their homes there, the Liberal Party said Saturday, also the eve of the Muslim celebration of the end of Ramadan, or Eid’l Fitr. 

“Kasama kami sa ating mga kapatid na Muslim sa pagdiriwang ng Eid’l Fitr,” said Liberal Party president Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan.

“Kakaiba ang pagdiriwang ngayong taon, may lockdown at paghihigpit dahil sa sakit na COVID-19. Pinatindi nito ang hirap na dinadanas nila mula pa 2017. Naaalala pa natin ang mga nasirang buhay at kabuhayan ng mga kapatid nating Muslim. Hanggang ngayon, hindi pa nila naramdaman ang rehab ng gobyerno,” he added.

Citing various reports of non-government organizations working in Mindanao, Pangilinan said official results or records of all government efforts to rebuild the city have yet to be made public.

He also echoed the sentiments of many Marawi residents that they be allowed to go home. 

“’Tatlong taon na, bakwit pa rin kami. We cannot understand why the government is still not allowing us to go home’. Yan ang mga sinasabi nila sa atin. Sana payagan na silang makabalik sa mga tahanan nila at maitaguyod ulit ang kanilang buhay at kabuhayan,” Pangilinan said. 

He said he also supports the following recommendations of various Mindanao-based NGOs: 

* A formal partnership between government agencies and NGOs like the Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch to function as a monitoring group that shall regularly report to Congress on status of the reconstruction and rebuilding of Marawi;

* Bill compensating all Marawi residents whose lives were shattered, as well as private schools, hospitals and other organizations providing essential public services; 

* Exemption of the customs duty tax for donated items and financial incentives for affected businesses such as private schools and hospitals. 

The Marawi siege between the Philippine government security forces and the combined terrorist forces of the Maute Group, the Abu Sayyaf Group, and their supporter foreign jihadists started on 23 May 2017. The ensuing battle dragged for five months and the city was declared liberated on 17 October 2017. 

“Sa gitna ng mga pagsubok na ito, nagpapasalamat pa rin tayo kay Allah sa paggabay sa atin sa katotohanan at kabutihan,” Pangilinan said.

“Following the time of renewal and reflection, may we emerge with a peaceful mind and stronger faith to face the challenges ahead. Humbled by this pandemic, may we come out more compassionate and hopeful people as we proceed to our next journeys,” he added.

Eid’l Fitr celebrates the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, when Muslims go on fasting from sunrise to sunset each day. 

Eid’l Fitr this year comes as the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected at least 13,597 people and killed 857 in the Philippines alone as of Friday.

The Philippine National Police has reminded Muslims in Metro Manila that mass gatherings remain prohibited.