Hope hangs in the air
Since President Rodrigo Duterte declared Marawi liberated on Oct. 17, 2017 after a five-month siege by military-described youthful terrorists, the government had shifted gear in planning to rehabilitate the city’s most affected area and turn it into a modern urban center. The government’s persuasive rhetoric has been that those who lost their livelihood, houses and some kin in the bloody battle between the foreign-inspired terrorists and determined government troops would be able to return before long to their homes in the most affected area near the 340-square kilometer Lake Lanao. The five-month battle—begun on May 23, 2017 when Filipino security forces carried out an operation to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the ISIS-affiliated Abu Sayyaf Group—left around 160 soldiers and 1,000 terrorists dead. Part of the government’s rehabilitation program is to turn the most affected area into a modern urban center, and to make some 124,000 internally displaced persons or IDPs, by count of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, to return to what is now dubbed Ground Zero. Officials of Task Force Bangon Marawi, a government inter-agency body organized to facilitate the rehabilitation, recovery and reconstruction efforts in Marawi, have said the IDPs, under the program, must undergo profiling and biometric registration.