After SONA snub, displaced Marawi folk deliver their own
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—After getting snubbed in what could be President Rodrigo Duterte’s most important State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday (July 27), displaced residents of Marawi City delivered their own on Wednesday (July 29), calling it State of the Marawi Bakwit, in reference to the shortened Filipino term for evacuees.
But it was not just one evacuee speaking. Marawi evacuees spoke one by one, describing their plight in cramped, squalid shelters where they continued to languish while awaiting the government’s go-signal for them to return to their homes in the city that was ravaged by terrorism and government response to it.
“One hundred fifty six IDPs (internally displaced persons) share one faucet for water,” said Bai Mikmik Pumbaya, an evacuee who lives in a temporary shelter at the village of Pindolonan, Saguiaran town in Lanao del Sur province.
“We do not even have enough water to wash our hands,” she said, adding that this makes it difficult for them to heed health protocol to prevent transmission of SARS Cov2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Local civil society groups gathered the evacuees in Marawi City to tell their stories on how the government had allegedly neglected their plight, three years after they were uprooted from the city booming in trade and culture.
The meeting was streamed live on Facebook, Zoom and other online platforms.
The groups seized the opportunity to respond to Duterte’s SONA which made no mention at all of Marawi.
“This is the true SONA. This is the true condition of us evacuees in Marawi,” one group said in a statement in Filipino.
“We do not want to be forgotten. We have to appeal again that we exist,” said Maranao civil society leader Tirmizy Abdullah.
The groups said more than 17,000 families, or 126,000 individuals, are still displaced, many of them living in shelters around Marawi City.
Another 80,000 families are displaced in different parts of the country, the groups said.
“The evacuees are facing bigger and bigger problems every day. Now, they are facing a deadlier problem with COVID-19,” said Drieza Liningding of the Moro Consensus Group.
Marian Hadji Malik, an evacuee who lives in the temporary shelter of the village of Sagonsongan in Marawi City, said nothing is left of the P73,000 given to them by the Department of Trade and Industry to start a small retail, or sari-sari, stores.
“How can our sari-sari stores make a profit when most of our neighbors do not have work and money to buy,” Malik said.
Johari Pacasum, another evacuee from a shelter camp at Marawi’s village of Boganga, said big families are cramped inside small houses in the shelters.
“I am used to sleeping in a comfortable bed. Now, I sleep on the floor with a mat,” he said.
Lininding urged the government to allow the unconditional return of the evacuees so they can start rebuilding their lives and the city.
“President Duterte promised to rebuild our homes. We are asking him now to fulfill that promise,” Lininding said.
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