Muslim leaders in Quiapo are praising Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada’s tireless efforts to maintain peace and order in the local Muslim community and prevent communal discord between Muslims and Christians.
When the ISIS-inspired Muslim extremists attacked Marawi City, Hajji Moh’d Ersad “Bebot” Malli said Estrada immediately moved to secure the Quiapo Muslim community and protect Muslim residents from discrimination and anti-Muslim sentiment.
“I’ll give Mayor Estrada a grade of 100 percent for his support to the Muslim community,” Malli, administrator of the Manila Golden Mosque and Cultural Center in Quiapo, said.
Even before the breakout of violence in Marawi and the bomb explosions in Quiapo last May, Malli pointed out that Estrada has been going out of his way to improve the standard of living of both Muslim and Christian residents of the community.
“The bombings only served to strengthen the Muslim community’s relationship with City Hall under Mayor Erap,” the Muslim leader stressed, referring to the twin incidents of bombings in Quiapo last May that resulted in the deaths of two people and injuries to 20 others.
The Manila Police District (MPD) has concluded that the attacks were not terror-related.
Following the blasts, Estrada and MPD director Chief Supt. Joel Coronel opened talks with the Muslim clerics and barangay leaders to work out a joint security arrangement to protect the community and the entire city from possible spillover of violence from Mindanao and other security threats.
“It’s really important to meet and communicate. Now peace and order has returned to our district,” Malli said.
Through Estrada’s peace initiatives, Malli said the observance of the recent holy month of Ramadan was generally peaceful, with thousands of visitors trooping to the Golden Mosque during “Tarawih,”, the Muslim equivalent of the Christians’ Evening Mass during Christmastime.
“We thought only few people would attend the Tarawih prayers, but we saw a lot more coming,” Malli recounted. “Not only Manilans were coming, but those from Pasig, Fairview and other areas came to our mosque.”
He attributed it to concerted efforts of the city government and the Muslim community to erase the social stigma against peace-loving Muslims brought about by the Maute group’s killing of innocent Christians and non-Muslims in Marawi.
On the issue of drugs, Malli said that both Muslim and Christian residents are now helping the MPD in ridding the Quiapo Muslim community of drug peddlers.
“The Golden Mosque area is OK now, it’s drug-free. It used to feel like a market for drugs before,” he said.
Malli expressed the Muslim community’s gratitude to Estrada for assisting Marawi residents who have sought refuge in Manila, foremost of which was the therapy and trauma treatment program the City Hall had initiated to aid displaced schoolchildren now enrolled in local public schools.