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Philippines

Desperate Marawi survivors to take their troubles to Manila

Displaced and other victims want self-determination in rehabilitation efforts, end to martial law rights violations

Mark Saludes and Inday Espina-Varona, Manila

Mark Saludes and Inday Espina-Varona, Manila

Updated: August 28, 2017 05:29 AM GMT
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Desperate Marawi survivors to take their troubles to Manila

Evacuees and survivors of the Marawi crisis will bring to Manila their stories of displacement and increasing violations of their rights under martial law in Mindanao. (Photo courtesy of Sandugo — the Movement of Moros and indigenous people for self-determination)

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Displaced Marawi residents will take to the streets of Manila this week to push for self-determination in rehabilitation efforts and demand an end to martial law rights violations in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

Fighters inspired by the so-called Islamic State (IS) are on the run after three months of fighting but President Rodrigo Duterte admits rehabilitation of Marawi places heavy pressure on government resources.

Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the government will need at least US$300 million in the next two years to turn the city around. The government has already spent more than US$60 million trying to retake Marawi.

Defense Undersecretary Cesar Yano, head of the rehabilitation task force, said the government has released US$6 million to displaced folk in cash aid.

He said the task force was to build the first 1,000 temporary shelters next month on an 11-hectare property.

But shelter woes are just the tip of the problem. Forty percent of Marawi was destroyed in the fighting, according to Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson of the Lanao del Sur provincial crisis management committee.

"We are talking about the city center, where socio-economic life really is concentrated so we are talking about schools, private and civilian properties; we are taking about markets," Adiong said in a television interview.

The international aid organization, Save The Children, said more than half of the city's 60,000 displaced children have not returned to school.

The education crisis can only fuel unrest in an area already struggling against the inroads of extremism said Tindeg Ranao, a network of displaced residents and their supporters.

Prolonged displacement has fueled anger among the predominantly Muslim population. Aerial bombardment against rebel forces smashed a wide swathe of the city, doubling initial estimates for rehabilitation.

Fighting has displaced close to half a million residents and business people. Most have chosen to stay with relatives in nearby towns now struggling with the effects of a population boom.

Tindeg Ranao and other groups urged lawmakers to craft a reparations law. They want the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and international experts on "transitional justice" to help assess damages incurred by civilians. Several religious leaders from Marawi and Lanao del Sur are expected to join the protests.

Their call may face stiff opposition in government. Duterte and senior aides have rejected aid that come with conditions, especially respect for human rights.

Duterte declared martial law at the onset of the Marawi conflict and his defense chief says it will remain in force until Marawi is rehabilitated.

Tindeg Ranao spokesman Asliah Ampuan said next week's protest would also highlight how Muslim radicalism spread with attacks on their communities by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos' government.

Norodin Alonto Lucman, a traditional leader and staunch follower of Duterte, echoed the group's call for "self-determination" in the rehabilitation of Marawi.

"The destruction of Marawi has left Lanao del Sur province unstable," Lucman told ucanews.com.

Chafing at outsiders taking over the city's rehabilitation, Lucman said "only the people of Lanao can make a difference because only our people truly understand what Islam means."

Traditional clans, he added, are being sidelined in community defense programs.

"There are areas in the province that need to be monitored for possible outbreaks of hostilities," said Lucman, a former rebel who gained fame by sheltering dozens of Christians in his home during the worst of the extremist rampage.

He confronted fighters and forced them to open a passage where he led more than 100 people to safety.

Lucman said offers by traditional clans to patrol communities have largely been spurned. A military officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Duterte does not want to encourage civilian use of arms in an area already plagued by deadly clan feuds.

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