We, members and networks of bakwit communities (internally displaced persons – IDPs), civil society organizations, women and youth, and Meranaw leaders today, in commemoration of the 6th anniversary of the siege of our beloved Marawi City, reiterate our calls for justice, human rights protection and peace towards the full realization of an IDP-centered safe and dignified return of all IDPs back to their homes in Ground Zero, Marawi.

Six years after the Marawi Siege, the prolonged displacement still puts many lives in crisis and grave peril, depriving the IDPs of their fundamental human rights. Amid much publicized rehabilitation efforts in the city’s Most Affected Areas, the promise to rebuild the lives of the victims and survivors of the siege remain heavily unfulfilled.

As of 21 March 2023, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reports that approximately 80,300 people (16,070 families) remain displaced since May 2017. Around 70% of the internally displaced population are in home-based settings while the rest are in transitory sites or temporary shelter communities.

While our calls are a refrain of still persisting demands, today, we do commend the Marawi Compensation Board (MCB) in formulating the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of RA 11696 or the Marawi Siege Victims Compensation Act of 2022–a law that will provide monetary compensation for the families of those who perished and lost their properties due to the Marawi siege in 2017.

We have long been clamoring for the legislation of a just Marawi compensation law and the formulation of its IRR is a significant victory for the victims and survivors of the siege as it is a critical step towards ensuring Marawi’s full recovery. This is a flickering light that will hopefully blaze brightly in our struggle for justice.

The Marawi Siege Victims Compensation Act is limited, and the government has an obligation to address the pressing issues, challenges, and concerns faced by the IDPs by going beyond providing compensation for the victims of the siege.

We urge both the national and regional Bangsamoro governments to take into account equally relevant challenges confronting the IDPs, which include, among others: the land conflict and dispossession in Marawi, which affects especially four (4) barangays within ground zero; building of large-scale public infrastructures inside MAA which are reportedly unfit to the needs of residents; the continuing militarization of the entire province of Lanao with the intimidating presence and mounting of various military camps; human rights violations committed during the siege, illegal demolition, and the critical issue of delivering justice to the innocent victims of the siege, a number of whom after six years remain unidentified.

For the longest time, the IDPs remained to be on the receiving end of systematic marginalization, dis-inclusion and discrimination.

We reiterate our view that rebuilding Marawi must go beyond rebuilding the streets, setting up traffic lights, and building barangay halls destroyed during the siege. Rebuilding the city must begin with rebuilding the lives of the displaced population by pursuing truth, justice and accountability within a Transitional Justice (TJ) framework to comprehensively address the roots of conflict and to ensure that another Marawi siege or a similar tragedy will never happen again.

A truth-seeking process on the roots of Marawi siege and documentation of the dead in the mass grave (Maqbara) must be initiated by conducting an independent legislative inquiry on what really happened in Marawi and how the budget for rehabilitation of the city has been spent since 2017. Delaying justice for the victims of the siege is resulting in prolonged emotional and psychological trauma to the families and survivors. It goes without saying that this can provide the conditions for their further vulnerability.

More importantly, the government must recognize the imperative to listen to the IDPs, Meranaw leaders, civil society, and the broad peace movement in Marawi in order to attain the full realization of a better future for Marawi and fulfill the promise of the Bangsamoro peace process.

There is an urgent need to institutionalize relevant peace and social justice measures to end decades of conflict and structural poverty in the region, and most importantly address the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro and all other inhabitants of Mindanao.

We believe that the issue of displacement, especially one that is driven by armed-conflict, Marawi siege is a transitional justice issue and policy measures must deliberately respond to the justice claims of the IDPs by addressing the bakwits’ most pressing needs, redress for the victims and their families, and by supporting their advocacy for durable solutions.

We urge the general public, our progressive allies in the media, partner communities, human rights and peacebuilding civil society organizations, and champions within the government to remain in solidarity with the IDPs.

Today, we reaffirm our commitment to sustain our advocacy towards the safe and dignified return of the IDPs back to Marawi. We pray that we will have a more hopeful anniversary to commemorate next year.

Six years after the siege, our call remains: Kambalingan! (Kambalingan is a Meranaw term which means ‘voluntary, safe, and dignified return’ of IDPs)

Initial Signatories:
Marawi Advocacy Accompaniment (MAA)
Reclaiming Marawi Movement (RMM)
Kalimudan sa Ranao Foundation, Inc. (KFI)
Maranao Women Transformation for Inclusion and Democracy (MATAID)
Ompongan Youth Organization (OYO)
Ranao Rescue Team (RRT)
Moro Consensus Group (MCG)
Reconciliatory Initiatives for Development Opportunities, Inc. (RIDO)
Thuma Ko Kapagingud Service Organization, Inc. (THUMA)
Gender and Development (GAD), Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT)
Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services, Inc. (IDEALS)
Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID)