Evacuees to march home in Marawi via peace rally

By Ali G. Macabalang

March 26, 2018

COTABATO CITY: Local civil society organizations (CSOs) are set to hold a peaceful protest rally in Marawi City on March 30 in another attempt to bring in thousands of evacuees languishing in refugee camps in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities for over 10 months now.

The Bangsamoro Consensus Group (BCG), one of CSOs that planned out the upcoming event, said on Saturday that hundreds of evacuees will join the rally at Marawi City’s People’s Park to sound off further their quests for appropriate resettlement, rehabilitation and just indemnification.

“Based on plan, they (refugees still trapped in evacuation centers) will participate in the gathering,” BCG chair Drieza Abato Lininding told the Bulletin over the phone.

More than 200,000 residents have been displaced since government troops started fighting Daesh-inspired militants that laid siege in vital sections of Marawi City on May 23, 2017. Some of them have been allowed to come home and get resettled in housing units built by private and public entities after the end of fighting last October.

At least 17,000 displaced families continued to languish with scaled-down food rations and humanitarian services in different camps across Northern Mindanao, particularly in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities, welfare workers said.

“Many evacuees have turned street mendicants, begging for alms for food and basic needs. Worse, some residents and host officials became repulsive against them (evacuees),” a fellow rally organizer told The Manila Bulletin, citing pronouncements in the local media by Iligan City officials.

Lininding, who family has also been sheltered in Cagayan de Oro City, said the March 30 rally will be the second try by evacuees to return home.

On July 24, 2017, he said, hundreds of heads of displaced families braced up for a “homecoming march” but officials including Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana persuaded organizers to call off the plan with a promise that evacuees will be transported home by government vehicles in a couple of months.

Participants in the March 30 homecoming, dubbed “M’balingan tano sa (let’s march to) Ground Zero,” should bring along identifications cards and praying carpets for use in a Friday congregational prayer at the rally site, according to CSO worker Adel Ditucalan.

Lininding and Ditucalan have consistently been demanding for participation of evacuees’ representatives in the planning of rehabilitation efforts in war-torn Marawi City.

“In healing processes, evacuees as ailing patients should be asked what ailments they suffer and what medicine are appropriate for them,” Lininding said in the vernacular, claiming that no single evacuee was ever invited to planning conferences by government authorities. (Source: Facebook)

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