By Carolyn O. Arguillas
and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism .
(Last of five parts)
Soon after the President declared Marawi “liberated” on Oct. 17 last year, displaced residents from 52 of the 76 villages vacated were allowed to return to Marawi, in batches, from evacuation centers, their relatives’ houses, or rented dwellings in neighboring Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities, the municipalities of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur, and other parts of the country.
But it took more months before residents of the 24 villages in Ground Zero – estimated by TFBM to number about 27,000 families – were allowed to visit what used to be their homes or shops and collect whatever they could still salvage from the rubble.
They were also to visit only from last April 1 to May 10, and for just three days each, per sector. Ground Zero has been classified into nine sectors.
‘He betrayed us’
Salic Cadalay was among those who took the opportunity to return even for a very brief time to Ground Zero. The owner of a hardware store along Dangcal St. in Padian (market), Cadalay during his short visit last May had quickly begun putting up makeshift signages asserting ownership of his store that had collapsed from the air strikes, and of what used to be his residence and warehouse a few steps away.
It had been a year since he and his family had fled the city and he kept shaking his head in disbelief at the sight of the devastation.
“Lahat ng kayamanan namin, kaisa ra nawala,” said the businessman who had set up his store here 32 years ago, laying down the future for his 13 children and 20 grandchildren.
“One time, big time,” he said of his losses.
Cadalay estimated his losses as reaching some P100 million, aside from the debts he has yet to settle.
“Kadugo, pero nag-unay sa kadugo,” he lamented, referring to Duterte. “Yang President, kababayan namin ‘yan.”
Cadalay then took out his wallet and showed off his laminated ‘Duterte Volunteer’ ID that he used during the presidential campaign in 2016. His message to his “kadugo” President: “Help us rebuild our homes and stores, provide us reparation and capital to start anew.”
Several observers have already warned the government of dire consequences otherwise, including yet another round of violence.
In his policy paper submitted to President Duterte last year, Dr. Muslim pointed out that Marawi City today is “essentially a powder keg” because of the “destruction and losses and continued sufferings, hardships and indignities in evacuation centers and in private and commercial dwellings in other cities, the growing disillusionment with the never-ending Mindanao peace process, and the perceptible spread of violent extremism and radicalism to the Muslim communities in Mindanao.” (mindanews and pcij)