After five months of fighting in Marawi City against the ISIS-inspired Maute terror group, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana finally terminated all combat operations there last Monday. This announcement was made a week after President Rodrigo Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi, following the killing of the Maute leaders, Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute.
Achieving victory over Marawi did not come easy. The President declared martial law over the whole of Mindanao on May 23, following the attack of the Maute group. It was reported that around 165 soldiers and policemen offered lives during the 154-day siege. Nine-hundred twenty terrorists were killed. Most of Marawi was damaged, and many residents were displaced. About 1,780 hostages were rescued.
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said, “We have successfully concluded what has been, so far, the most serious threat of violent extremism and radicalism in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia.”
While I agree with this assessment, we must acknowledge that the end of the Marawi siege does not put an end to the possibility of terrorism entering our country. President Duterte warned everyone of the evils of the ISIS ideology and called for our preparedness on possible terrorist activities in the future. The President has earlier reported receiving terror plots in his office.
A bigger task now for the government is the rehabilitation of Marawi. On June 8, President Duterte signed Administrative Order No. 3, which created Task Force Bangon Marawi, an inter-agency task force in charge of the rehabilitation of Marawi City. Some of the agencies that would play a big role in this team are DSWD, DPWH, DILG, DepEd, DoH, DoE, DBM, and AFP. This group has come up with a master plan to rebuild Marawi and Lanao del Sur. It will cost the government more than P50 billion to restore the war-torn city. As funding, the DBM has allotted P5 billion from the 2017 budget and P10 billion from the 2018 budget, while the 2019 budget is yet to be determined. According to the DILG, the team has already started its rehabilitation efforts.
We must be clear. A military victory is not necessarily victory in Marawi. The divide between Muslim Mindanao and the rest of the country is abysmal. The bitter and bloody story is a painful wound in our nation’s history, made deeper by terrorists who antagonize the situation for their own interests. We cannot allow our Muslim brothers to feel neglected and alienated from the rest of the nation. The onus on the Government therefore, is to create projects and programs centered on providing education and opportunities, development, and infrastructure, for the entire island region.