By Bonita Ermac
MARAWI CITY – “We are on our way to being well. We are finally learning what peace is all about,” Mayor Majul Gandamra declared as residents commemorated the siege that devastated the city two years ago.
Although the full extent of the rehabilitation process has yet to be completed, Gandamra urged the people in Marawi to put more emphasis on social healing.
“Peace starts with us. Peace must be realized,” he said as the city celebrated the culmination of the Week of Peace festival.
The festival was held at the grounds of City Hall, where two years ago, the mayor and several of his security men stood firm for days preventing the Maute terrorist group from burning the building.
Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr., who was then the chief of Western Mindanao Command, said that just like their mayor who fought the terrorists tooth and nail, the people of Marawi have shown their best by being resilient even at the height of the conflict.
“I was tasked to deliver an inspirational message today as we culminate the Marawi Week of Peace. But the reality is, it is you, the people of Marawi, who have inspired and strengthen my resolve to work for genuine and enduring peace,” he said.
“Truly, I am very inspired to know that as we observe the Holy Month of Ramadan, you are using the occasion as an opportunity to reflect on the lessons of the Marawi experience and apply them to your daily lives,” Galvez said.
Marawi could benefit from the establishment of the Bangsamoro region, he said.
“The opportunity for us to heal, rebuild, and recover is within reach. With the establishment of the Bangsamoro government, the fate of this beautiful city now rests not only in the hands of the new leadership but also in your hands,” he said.
According to Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario, chair of the Task Force Bangon Marawi, few families affected by the conflict remained at evacuation camps.
“At the initial aftermath of the siege, there were about 57 evacuation centers with almost 6,000 families within and outside of Marawi. Now we have only two evacuation centers in Marawi with only about 312 families,” he said.
“And by July, all of these families will be accommodated in the temporary shelters. So nobody will be staying in evacuation centers,” he said.
Those families who applied for building and reconstruction permits from the city government of Marawi will be allowed to go back in the most affected area, he said.
Rosario said Marawi is gradually bouncing back.
“We are mandated to ensure that Marawi will rise as a prosperous city again,” he said.
To achieve a holistic approach for the healing process, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is partnering with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) to help rehabilitate former members of the Maute group.
Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., 103rd Infantry Brigade commander, said it is also important to intervene in the deradicalization of individuals who were duped to join the group.
“We are looking at the Basilan model, wherein members of the Abu Sayyaf, who have surrendered, where given proper interventions,” he said.
Galvez said his office will help the military in Lanao areas bring down the level of animosity between the victims of the conflict and surrendered perpetrators.