The Crisis Through the Eyes of Lanao Del Sur Gov. Bedjoria Soraya Alonto Adiong

Recalling the recently concluded Battle of Marawi makes me emotional. I thought I had seen all the pain and bitterness of life after seeing my children grow and later on, becoming a grandmother myself. Through the years, I always sought divine guidance to help me out in every crisis and always, without fail, coming out successful and jubilant for surpassing all those trials in life. 

I was in the Provincial Capitol signing regular papers, including the salaries of employees, when the ISIS-Maute Terrorist Group started their rampage in Marawi City. In the face of danger, I remained in my office though I was already being warned about the ISIS-Maute Terrorist Group’s presence within the vicinity. I was being persuaded to immediately go home. Everybody in the compound was panicking. I asked my son to fetch me and he arrived eight hours later, which is unusual, compared to the normal one hour travel time. Martial Law in the whole of Mindanao was in effect immediately after the President Duterte proclaimed the decree. The military forces did the right thing. It was the most decisive action that needed to be done to address the situation. I can harbor hatred towards the ISIS-Maute Terrorist Group, but I need to forgive them as a good Muslim and move on with our lives. 

On our current efforts, we have temporary shelters for the IDPs of Marawi and peripheral municipalities. There are also psycho-social programs to address the impact of the war or to heal the trauma that the people had experienced, especially that of the children. These efforts were anchored with the DSWD and supported by JTF Marawi. The JTG Tabang initiatives and the UNDP efforts helped alleviate the plight of the evacuees and affected communities during the Battle of Marawi.

After the liberation of Marawi, I went around the province and talked to the mayors, my constituents, stakeholders, and other displaced locals. I was soliciting their cooperation and help in mobilizing the rehabilitation programs for Marawi City. My immediate concerns were the children, hence, I was pushing for the restoration of the Madrasah. Next were the women, I wanted them to have a source of income or livelihood. There was a need for support from the national government, local government units, non-government organizations, to help us Maranaos to go back to our usual trading business, since my people are good traders. I envisioned a new Marawi City, expanding beyond its normal course. 

On a bigger picture, there is a need to address the pressing problems besetting thousands of displaced individuals, damaged properties, health issues, including traumatic and psychological experiences, and environmental hazards. More importantly, there should be programs and sincere efforts between the people and government in the regaining their trust. Peacebuilding and a return to normalcy must be a recurring theme addressed to the community whose members lost everything especially in the most affected areas (MAA) of Marawi City. 

The peacebuilding effort will focus on reconstruction, housing, health and social welfare, business and livelihood, and peace and order. The reconstruction will cover key public infrastructure, including the masjid (Mosque). The intention is to go back into the situation just before the crisis occurred and address key gaps and inequities. The health and social welfare effort will ensure that priorities will be given to the top five prevalent diseases in the evacuation centers, to keep every IDP disease-free and healthy. The social welfare office will provide assistance to the IDPs and this will include: cash, food, shelter, and psycho-social support. The business and livelihood effort will provide and enhance activities for producers, sellers, and consumers to improve economic well-being of the IDPs. It is important that markets are developed, new and existing enterprises are strengthened, and jobs are created. The peace and order council will initiate establishment of civil society organizations that will encourage participation of communities to find symptoms for violence and resolve the rido (dispute) due to land titling.

Admittedly, the war inflicted so much hate and misery among the people. It will be difficult to start rebuilding, but with everybody’s help, Marawi City will rise again.

More details are explained in the book MARAWI AND BEYOND: The JTF Marawi Story. For inquiries, send email to info@marawiandbeyond.com.