By MASIDING NOOR YAHYA
May 24, 2019
May 24, 2019
MARAWI CITY: “We are on our way to being well. We are finally learning what peace is all about,” City Mayor Majul U. Gandamra declared as residents here on Thursday commemorated the siege of Marawi that occurred two years ago.
Although the full extent of the rehabilitation process has yet to be completed, Gandamra urged the people in Marawi to put more emphasis on social healing.
“Peace starts with us. Peace must be realized,” he said as the city celebrates the culmination of the Week of Peace festival.
The festival was held right on the grounds of the City Hall, where two years ago, the Mayor and his security men stood firm for days preventing the Maute group from burning the City Hall.
Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr., who was then the chief of Western Mindanao Command, shared that just like their mayor who fought against the ISIS-linked group tooth and nail, the people of Marawi have shown their best by being resilient right at the height of the conflict.
“I was tasked to deliver an inspirational message today as we culminate the Marawi Week of Peace. But the reality is, it is you, the people of Marawi, who have inspired and strengthen my resolve to work for genuine and enduring peace,” he said.
“Truly, I am very inspired to know that as we observe the Holy Month of Ramadan, you are using the occasion as an opportunity to reflect on the lessons of the Marawi experience and apply them to your daily lives,” Galvez said, adding that “This is where the healing process can truly begin.”
Galvez emphasized that Marawi stand to benefit from the establishment of the Bangsamoro region.
“The opportunity for us to heal, rebuild, and recover is within reach. With the establishment of the Bangsamoro government, the fate of this beautiful city now rests not only in the hands of the new leadership but also in your hands,” he said.
“You now have the opportunity to play a key role in charting the course of Marawi’s future,” Galvez pointed out.
Evacuees go back
According to Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, chair of the Task Force Bangon Marawi, only a few families affected by the conflict are still staying in evacuation camps.
“At the initial aftermath of the siege, there were about 57 evacuation centers with almost 6,000 families within and outside of Marawi. Now we have only two evacuation centers in Marawi with only about 312 families,” he said.
“And by July, all of these families will be accommodated in the temporary shelters. So nobody will be staying in evacuation centers,” he said.
Families that applied for building and reconstruction permits from the city government of Marawi will be allowed to go back in the most affected area, he said.
Del Rosario said Marawi is gradually bouncing back.
“We are mandated to ensure that Marawi will rise as a prosperous city again,” he said.
Transitional justice program
To achieve a holistic approach for the healing process, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is partnering with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) to help rehabilitate former members of the Maute group.
Col. Romeo Brawner, the commander of Task Force Ranao, said it is also important to intervene in the deradicalization of these individuals who were duped to join the Maute group.
“We are looking at the Basilan model, wherein members of the Abu Sayyaf, who have surrendered, were given proper interventions,” he said.
Galvez said his office will be helping the military in Lanao areas to bring down the level of animosity between the victims of the conflict and surrendered perpetrators.
“What we are looking at is the implementation of transitional justice and reconciliation here,” he said.
Part of the activities is to meet with the members of the Maute group who have surrendered and their families for an Iftar.
Brawner said they will tap these former and reformed combatants to prevent others from being radicalized.
Galvez also went to the Sarimanok Evacuation Center together with OPAPP personnel to hand over goods in solidarity with the internally displaced persons.
The visit is part of the yearly Duyog Ramadan that OPAPP is implementing during the month-long observance.
Meanwhile, Galvez, Del Rosario, Gandamra, and Brawner held a solemn wreath-laying to commemorate the soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice to liberate Marawi. The ceremony was held inside the 103rd Infantry Brigade headquarters.
“The gallantry of the 168 soldiers who lost their lives will forever be etched in our hearts,” Galvez said. (With a story from PNA)