ILIGAN CITY, Philippines – Members of the Ranaw Ulama-Leaders Conference and high-ranking government officials met Sunday to discuss key concerns raised by the former, as pressure mounted for authorities to allow the return of residents to cleared zones in Marawi City, besieged by extremists since May 23.
The Ranaw-Ulama-Leaders Conference had conveyed the request of most stakeholders to allow them to start rebuilding, with the declaration of certain areas in the city as cleared of the presence of the Daesh-inspired local terrorist group. They are seeking the re-start of operations of key establishments and offices there.
Most of the speakers at the meeting that began at 9am expressed their intent to go back to their homes, saying their life right at the moment is unimaginably difficult.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the martial law administrator in Mindanao, listened to the concerns but patiently explained to the attendees that the government cannot yet allow them to return home since the fighting in Marawi is still intense.
Just at the weekend, 9 soldiers got killed and 26 others were wounded during intense fighting in downtown Marawi.
“We want you to go back to your homes, but we cannot be sure when, as of the moment,” said Lorenzana.”Human lives are precious for us, that is why we want to make sure that by the time you return to your homes, you will already be safe.”
He asked the people not to blame the Martial Law declaration for causing the evacuation of the people because with or without the declaration, surely people will evacuate once the fighting starts.
“We do not want this war to prolong, and please understand that we did not ask for this either,” added Lorenzana.
Attending the conference with him was the Commander of the Western Mindanao Command, Lieutenant General Carlito G Galvez, Jr.
“We hope you will understand that we are fighting a different kind of enemy,” said the WestMinCom Chief. “Your soldiers die everyday and are making sacrifices just to liberate Marawi from terror.”
Ranaw Ulama’s concerns
In its manifesto, the Ranaw Ulama proposed its inclusion, as member of the sub-committees, in the Task Force Bangon Marawi. The council recommended the return of the residents to their homes and the opening of roads, particularly along Rorogagus-Guimba-Maliwanag-Ramain in Lanao del Sur and Bito-Capitol Complex-Awar Street-Amai Pakpak Avenue-Marantao.
The council also sought the re-start of operation in schools, government agencies and offices, and private establishments in the city, particularly the Marawi State University, after they are declared safe and cleared.
The group sought as well the immediate burial of the deceased and the prompt investigation of abuses and violations of any party in the proper forum.
Dubbed “I will be back, Wait for Me, Marawi,” said convention started at 9am in the City of Iligan and ended at around 2 in the afternoon.
Also at the convention were OPAPP Undersecretary Diosita Andot; Office of the Presidential Adviser for the OFW Abdullah Mamao; Secretary of the Mindanao Development Authority Datu Abul Khayr Alonto; Undersecretary for Defense Operations of the Department of National Defense Undersecretary Cesar Yano; Lieutenant General Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., Commander, Western Mindanao Command; Congressman Mauyag Papandayan, 2nd district; Datu Bangcola Adtha, Sultan sa Rogan, Secretary General of the Royal House; Doctor Ali Laguindab, representing the professional sector; Secretary Guiling Mamondiong of the TESDA; former Marawi Councilor Anwar Marabu; Alim Sarangani, representing the religious sector; and Dr. Safrullah Dipatuan, BDA MILF Chairman; the Ranao Rescue Group; Ranao Ulamah Leaders; and other nongovernment groups.
The meeting ended with the group agreeing to postpone a planned “rally” sometime after the State of the Nation Address of the President on Monday, July 24, 2017.