Rights advocates say policies neglect needs of displaced people in Mindanao

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Rights advocates say policies neglect needs of displaced people in Mindanao
This photo shows the ongoing reconstruction of the Grand Mosque in Marawi City.
Facebook / Task Force Bangon Marawi

MANILA, Philippines — Government policies are neglecting the needs of residents displaced by the Marawi siege and of the Moro people affected by escalating military violence in Mindanao, a global coalition of human rights advocates said.

In its second report on alleged human rights violations in the Philippines, Investigate PH said military operations in Mindanao are "perpetuating violence against and entrenching the marginalization of Moro communities."

“Government policy neglects the needs of displaced Marawi residents and Mindanao Moros, and violates their right to self-determination,” the report read.

Up to 400,000 residents of Marawi City and neighboring areas were displaced at the height of the fighting in 2017. Four years after pro-Islamic State militants laid siege to the predominantly Muslim city, about 87,230 individuals remained displaced, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.

The report pointed out the need for the displaced residents to return immediately to their old residences is a “serious economic issue.”

Community leaders interviewed by Investigate PH said jobs are difficult to come by, and their status as undocumented internally displaced persons excludes them from relief and government aid.

“They have been asked to leave and move to new shelters a couple of times and they have come to feel like second-class citizens while in evacuation, a feeling that only heightens their desire to return to their hometown. Their dire economic situation has even worsened in the midst of the pandemic,” the report read.

In a statement last May, members of the Marawi Advocacy Accompaniment said the displacement aggravated by the government’s slow rehabilitation and reconstruction program has deprived displaced people of “much-needed opportunities for economic survival amid pandemic period.”

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said reconstruction of the war-torn city has not been easy, with efforts prolonged by the clearing of lands from explosives and settling titles.

Investigate PH also said the consequences of the “war against the Moro people” are not isolated to the Marawi siege.

“The Maranaos and Moro people displaced by other military actions in other Moro areas experience the effects of this war, and the government’s failures to respond to their basic human rights as displaced people,” the report said.

“These displacements are sometimes preceded or succeeded by incidents of human rights violations by state forces who target civilian Moro communities in the course of their anti-terror operations,” it added.

The report was based on testimonies and verified information from survivors of abuses, relatives of victims and human rights advocates, and a forensics expert. 


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