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SHE TALKS PEACE: Priorities for incoming administration: Don’t forget Marawi Siege victims

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QUEZON CITY (MindaNews / 15 May) — The elections are over.  Presidential candidates Lacson, Moreno and Paquiao have conceded. 

World leaders have congratulated Ferdinand Marcos, Jr as the next President of the Philippines, and Mayor Sara Duterte -Carpio as the incoming Vice-President. 

Even Bangsamoro Interim Chief Minister Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim, who had endorsed the presidential bid of Vice President Leni Robredo, has congratulated presumptive president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. 

Senator Ping Lacson tweeted: “I’m going home. After being away too long looking after the needs of other people, it is time to serve my family for a change.”  But for FMJr and Inday Sara, serving the needs of their constituents (whether supporters or oppositors) is now the all-consuming preoccupation.  

Private sector representatives have been the first to go on air, noting that the economic accomplishments and reforms of the Duterte Presidency should be supported and expanded by the Marcos Administration.  The Commission on Higher Education has called for more support for CHEd’s program for Higher Education – Build. Bind. Minds for Sustainable Development. Commissioner Ronald Adamat noted that “that the said 10-point agenda is focused on addressing the country’s human resources needs, developing globally competent professionals and lifelong learning with a niche in both local and global markets.”  

Meanwhile, Human Rights Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana urged that the incoming administration should not forget government’s commitments, bound by law, to respect and protect human rights. 

I will add the plea of oppressed Bangsamoro who have been devastated by armed conflict, particularly the Marawi Siege.  It has been five years since the siege, when the ISIS affiliated violent extremists led by the Maute Brothers held government at bay for five months.  While government has extolled the accomplishments in infrastructure (buildings and roads), the victims’ plight remains debilitating.   

Our guest on “She Talks Peace” today is a young woman from Muslim Mindanao.    Nathera Dangcal has worked with Balay Mindanaw Foundation Inc since 2018.  She is an organizer for Sustainable Integrated Area Development.  A victim herself, she worked in Marawi City from 2018-2021, assisting in the rehabilitation of Marawi residents after the siege that took place in 2017.

Last January, Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) proudly claimed that they were “in the homestretch of completing the massive rehabilitation works,” that normalcy had returned inside Marawi City’s most affected area (MAA) or “ground zero.”    

Last month, MindaNews reported that  Marawi’s Ground Zero remains a ghost town.  Nathera agrees.  Nathera says that the rehabilitation of Marawi has not been as successful as government says. She shared with us that she and 11 members of her family had share a one room temporary shelter for years, with no running water.  One wonders why the needs of the residents have not been at the top of the priorities of the Marawi.  Perhaps because buildings and roads can be seen and photographed but water, livelihood support, education cannot?

Nathera is grateful for the support given by NGOs and development partners.  These organizations have provided a lifeline for the past since the end of the siege.  Nathera works for Balay Mindanaw, which has served as a conduit for humanitarian assistance and capacity building, supported by international partners such as the United Nations Development Programme. Just last year, UNDP’s Resident Representative Dr. Selva Ramachandran, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Lanao del Sur Governor Bombit Adiong to enhance development activities for the advancement of peace, resilience, and sustainability in the province, particularly for the Siege victims.

Nathera also stressed the importance of capacity building for the victims, particularly the women.  She says that the women have had to rely on themselves to eke out a livelihood.  They need help to help their families and communities.  UNDP has been providing capacity-building support and Nathera is one of the community organizers trained to do so.  She recounted a story about two women, from families in conflict (rido), who had managed to transcend the clan conflict and peacefully work out a solution.  Thank you, UNDP!

Such initiatives are invisible to the eye and yet have lasting positive effects, a major focus of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda  (WPS) that the Philippine government has been implementing for the last two decades.  Note that the Philippines is the first country in ASEAN to implement a National Action Plan on WPS, followed by Indonesia in 2014.  ASEAN is now in the process of drafting a Regional Plan of Action on WPS.  Is the Philippines a model worth emulating?  I believe so, but not if we forget Nathera (#WPSASEAN).  

From Nathera and citizens like her, devastated by acts of conflict not of their making, to the incoming Marcos Administration:  do not forget us!  Shout out to incoming Senator Robin Padilla!!

Do listen to Nathera Dangcal displaced by the Marawi Siege, call on the incoming administration to fast-track the rehabilitation of the displaced on She Talks Peace podcast.  

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(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Amina Rasul is the President of the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy, an advocate for Mindanao and the Bangsamoro, peace, human rights, and democracy)

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