Marawi IDPs’ louder call for peace, truth and justice towards safe and dignified return

For Inquiries: Prof. Tirmizy Abdullah – 09564015008; Amenodin “Ding” Cali – 09068356989

We, members and networks of Marawi Advocacy Accompaniment (MAA) composed of bakwit communities (internally displaced persons – IDPs), civil society organizations, women and youth, and Meranaw leaders today, in commemoration of the 7th anniversary of the siege of our beloved Marawi City, reiterate our calls for justice, truth, human rights protection and peace towards the full realization of an IDP-centered and IDP-sensitive safe and dignified return of all IDPs back to Marawi.

Dubbed ‘Kapanademtadem sa Marawi’: ‘LAKBAY KAMBALINGAN, LAKBAY KAPAYAPAAN’, we held a ‘Solidarity Peace Caravan’ in various IDP areas in Marawi City.

Seven years have passed since the Marawi Siege, the crisis of prolonged displacement still puts many lives in grave peril and has deprived the IDPs of their rights as human beings. 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.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) says 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.

Today, we demand that the Marawi Compensation Board (MCB), in the conduct of providing compensation for the families of those who perished and lost their properties and livelihood due to the Marawi siege in 2017, observe the principles of just compensation, fairness, and justice and prioritize those who need urgent compensation.

Beyond this, we believe that the national government has an obligation to address the issue more comprehensively by looking at the justice claims 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 including 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 for the needs of residents; the continuing militarization of the entire province of Lanao with the intimidating presence and mounting of various military camps; and the critical issue of delivering justice to the innocent victims of the siege, who after seven years remain unidentified.

Until today, Marawi IDPs have been experiencing difficulties since our forced evacuation in May 2017. There are still unmet needs and challenges while we wallow in the cramped IDP camps and shelter communities such as lack of food and livelihood opportunities, poor sanitation and hygiene conditions, access to WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), and pursuit of education for our children. The dire state of the IDPs is further exacerbated by the lack of programmatic intervention and inaction of some relevant government agencies who must attend to the needs of the IDPs.

We reiterate our view that rebuilding Marawi must go beyond rebuilding the streets 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 framework to comprehensively address the roots of festering conflict and to ensure that another Marawi siege or a similar tragic incident will never happen again.

A truth-seeking process to investigate 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 billions of budget allocation 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.

More importantly, the government must recognize the critical need to listen to the IDPs, Meranaw leaders, civil society, and the broad peace movement in Marawi in order to restore genuine peace and help Marawi get back on its feet 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, is a transitional justice issue that 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 solution.

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. Rebuilding Marawi to its old and new glory requires honoring and recognizing the heroism, culture and faith, optimism and resilience of the people of Marawi.

Today, we reaffirm our commitment to sustain our collective advocacy and struggle towards the safe and dignified return of the IDPs back to Marawi.

Seven years after the siege, our call remains louder: KAMBALINGAN!

(Kambalingan is a Meranaw term which means ‘voluntary, safe, and dignified return’ of IDPs) ###