CSOs coordinate efforts; hope to save more lives

More than thirty civil society networks hold coordination meeting to discuss their respective humanitarian interventions to Marawi crisis and to wield efforts on increasing displaced peoples’ access to civilian protection.

Convening networks include non-government organizations from Lanao provinces, Iligan city, and Cagayan de Oro.

1This was the third coordinating efforts aimed at “saving lives” and to demonstrate civil society support to the affected people of Marawi city.

The group initially planned to have a peace convoy of CSOs to Marawi to help rescue trapped civilians and recover cadavers within the established peace corridor. However, it was opined that proper coordination with authorities needs to be undertaken.

The CSOs assert that Marawi crisis should not be taken as isolated crisis because the conflict can escalate and impact to other areas in the country if root causes of the problem, especially the causes why locales and youths resort to extremism, are not effectively addressed.

Terrorism is not only local but a global problem. The complexity of this problem derived from frustration of good and transparent governance, make it actually a fertile ground for recruitment by the extremists, specially the youths.

While majority of the population of Marawi are supportive of the government efforts in resorting to military action against the Maute group following the siege, but the destruction of properties as a consequence of violent conflict in this lone Islamic City have hurt much the displaced residents.

Sultan of Marawi Hamidullah Atar feared that the destruction may even multiply the forces of the so-called Maute group instead of crashing them. The sultan stayed in Marawi City in the first five (5) days of the fighting and tried to help and mediate as much as he could but felt frustrated that somehow their efforts and pleas fell into deaf ears.

The CSOs also identified the needs to ensure the rights of the IDPs are protected in the evacuations centers and those hosted by communities and families. They called on the government agencies to fast track the distribution of relief goods to home-based IDPs. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) cited in its reports on June 1 that “about 87% of the more than 100,000 documented IDPs are staying outside the identified evacuation centers.”

The CSOs  also call on the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) to perform its task to help save lives and rescue those still trapped in Marawi as well as ensure that the welfare and rights of all displaced peoples will be protected. They cited the mandate of the OCD per Letter of Instruction (LOI) 19, s.1972, Sec. 13, “that is responsible for coordinating the activities and functions of various agencies and instrumentalities of the national government and private institutions and civic organizations devoted to public welfare so that the facilities and resources of the entire nation may be utilized to the maximum extent for the protection and preservation of the civilian populace and property during time of war and other national emergencies of equally grave character.”

The CSOs  also hope to have a dialogue with the OCD, the Secretary of National Defense and to the President of the Philippines to find alternative solutions to the Marawi crisis other than military action.

The CSOs believed that violent actions are destructive to lives and properties of Maranao constituents. It can encourage or entice those who are aggrieved and have suffered to join extremism instead of becoming peacemakers and peacebuilders.

The CSOs asks the Filipino community to understand contextually the situation in Lanao and ARMM and the reasons why extremists exist aside from external motivation that drove local terrorism or jihadist tendency.

CSOs call for more solidarity instead of sowing division.

As Sectoral Representative of the National Anti-Poverty Commission – Victims of Disaster and Calamities (NAPC-VDC) and member of the NDRRMC, Regina Salvador-Antequisa was tasked to bring the concern of the CSOs to the attention of Usec Ric Jalad for appropriate action.  Meanwhile, Balay Mindanao is tasked to link with the AFP command in the region and Sultan Atar and other Bangsamoro groups with the MILF and the Maute group, if possible.

All  participants in this meeting agreed to disseminate right information to inform the public about the context and root causes of the Marawi crisis and to motivate the government be to treat the problem holistically.

The meeting was held Monday, June 5,  at 2-5 p.m. at Jollibbee conference hall, Tubod, Iligan city.