For Immediate Release
April 14, 2018
Reference: Rodrigo Bacus, Chairperson, New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), firstname.lastname@example.org
NYCHRP Condemns War and Recovery Plan in Marawi City that is Disenfranchising 400,000 People
The New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP) expresses its shock and condemnation at the continued disenfranchisement of the Maranaw people in the war and recovery plan imposed by the Duterte regime in Marawi City, Mindanao. The continued disenfranchisement of the Maranaw is a direct violation of the principle of free, prior, and informed consent, the right to self-determination, the right to be free from discrimination, and the right to develop and maintain the cultures of national minorities and indigenous people. NYCHRP also condemns the heavy hand of the United States in supporting a devastating siege of Marawi City and an economic recovery plan that centers the interests of the US military industrial complex.
Between May and October 2017, despite various efforts by local residents in Marawi to dissuade the government of the Philippines, the Armed Forces of the Philippines conducted airstrikes in Marawi City that led to the deaths of soldiers, civilians, and the destruction of property. During the 7th Mindanao Human Rights Summit on February 23, 2018, Sultan Atar recalled that the government decided to ignore the residents of Marawi and forewent local efforts to resolve the issue in order to carry out bomb runs in the city, targeting one group with suspected connections to the Islamic State. Around 400,000 people were internally displaced from Marawi City as a result of the decision. The government’s siege of Marawi was only part of the human rights issues and violations under Duterte’s all out war and martial law policy in all of Mindanao.
The siege of Marawi and the displacement of the Maranaw does not just affect the residents of Marawi City. People impacted by the military strike include the larger community of the Maranaw including friends and family who frequent the area or are connected to Marawi residents. According to one of the members of the United Mothers of Marawi (UMMI):
“Alam mo ba na lahat ng tao sa Lanao ay connected sa Marawi? Kung meron pa na taga ibang municipalities na walang sariling bahay sa Marawi pero kapatid nila, anak, pinsan, nanay at tatay nila meron doon.” (Did you know that all of the people in Lanao are connected to Marawi? There may be people from other municipalities that do not own a house in Marawi but are siblings, children, cousins, or parents of the residents there).
The sense of community and sovereignty of the Maranaw are rooted in centuries of history. The Maranaw are the people of the lake, specifically Lake Lanao. The Maranaw are also among the multiple groups of indigenous communities in Mindanao. The Lumad and the Moro, a collection of communities and tribes of indigenous people, have fought colonization for hundreds of years, and their shared history and struggle is told through the origin story of the brothers Apu Mamalu, ancestor of the Manobo and Lumad, and Apu Tabunaway, ancestor of the Moro. As indigenous people and national minorities, the Maranaw defend themselves through struggle, a protection recognized by international human rights law and blatantly ignored by the Philippine government in its decision to strike down Marawi City.
The spectre of United States involvement and interest cannot be unstated in the wake of the devastation of the Marawi Siege. As part of its foreign relations efforts to the Philippines, the United States had already committed around $50 million in military aid to the Philippines in 2017. These funds generally cycle back to the US military industrial complex with the United States historically being the biggest supplier of military equipment to the country. In 2018, using ISIS and Marawi City as its excuse, the Trump regime has planned to increase its military engagement in the region and double military funding to the Philippines.
When the interests of two anti-people regimes collude, those that bear most of the impact are the people on the ground. Without regard to the return and recovery of the people that were displaced from Marawi City, the Philippine government presented a blueprint for recovery. The blueprint included plans to build malls, airports, and a military base that would house US troops. Moreover, the government plans to keep Marawi residents away from the city until such plans are implemented. Most people remain in evacuation zones and shelters.
The blueprint plans to cram the 400,000 refugees into community settlements. According to one Marawi resident: “Their almost mayhem scheming to displace our War zone idps [internally displaced persons] permanently so as to establish their ecozone and a military complex thereon. We have achieved that.” Residents are concerned that the settlements would make them vulnerable to more attacks in the future.
Since then, opposition to the recovery has grown as residents of Marawi City continue to be disenfranchised from the process. A recent appeal to the government on March 30, 2018 states:
“Plans have been made without our participation. Plans that neither bear the stamp of our will nor reflect our culture. Plans whose mechanics and implementation are not clear to us. But one thing is clear: the people of Marawi are largely left out. Those who came to present the plan dismissed our comments, recommendations, and protestations as though we knew nothing and have no business getting involved in rebuilding our very own city.
We appeal to you to let Marawi be rebuilt the way our ancestors did: one house at a time, one masjid at a time. One village at a time. We welcome those who are willing to help us in this endeavor, for the challenges are daunting and the costs are high. We appeal though that please help us rebuild according to our will in pursuit of the will of Allah(swt). Stand with us, help us, please, be one of us.
Mr. President, please put a stop to the proposed Eco zone and military camp plans until we have been heard, until our dreams and aspirations, our cultural sensitivities and our faith find expression in the rebuilding of Marawi City, our home.”
However, opposition of the people on the ground is being met with more state violence. Although the Marawi Siege was declared to be over, government militarization persists and residents have reported harassment and the presence of plain clothes people with firearms:
“This early morning i woke up to a call from a friend in Bayanihan village. may ni raid daw na bahay dun at hinuli isang residente. The wife and other household members saw a member of the raiding team naglagay ng 38 caliber tsaka sashe na drugs daw.” (This early morning I woke up to a call from a friend in Bayanihan Village. There was another raid in someone’s house where they arrested the resident. The wife and other members of the household saw that the raiding team had placed a .38 caliber gun and a sachet of drugs).
When Marawi residents demonstrated to voice their concerns, numbering to about 800 internally displaced persons out on the streets, protesting and trying to make their way back to Marawi, the police arrested them.
NYCHRP calls on fellow human rights advocates to condemn the ongoing human rights violations in Marawi City, Mindanao and for the government to immediately enact a recovery plan that is led by the directly impacted people on the ground.
Stand with Marawi
US Out of the Philippines! US out of Marawi! US out of Syria! US out of everywhere!
From Palestine to the Philippines, Stop The US War Machine!
Fight injustice and organize with NYCHRP!
Learn more about the Human Rights Situation in the Philippines by going to the Stop the Killings Speaking Tour 2018 on April 26, St. Francis of Assisi Church, Migrant Center in 34th Street.