September 21, 2017, 8:12 pm
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Back to Marawi

WITH THE fighting in Marawi City now on its 9th week, the displaced residents of the city have been feeling the pinch of the tragic occupation attempt mounted by the Maute-Abu Sayyaf combine, and would like to return home.

About 90 percent of them Muslims, these evacuees have reason for wanting to go home and start life anew. The government, however, is also correct in advising that they stay where they are today, for a little more time.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the President understands the sentiments of the residents wanting to return home after being forced to flee because of the intense fighting. But still, the government’s primordial concern is the safety and welfare of all civilians, especially women and children.

Permission cannot be granted for them to return because fighting is still ongoing in at least four barangays in Marawi, and even areas previously declared “cleared” by the military, such as the Provincial Capitol of Lanao del Sur, sometimes receive stray bullets and a number of persons have been wounded there.

As of the latest count, a total of 394 Islamist fighters, 93 government troopers, and 45 civilians have died since the crisis in Marawi began on May 23 -- that’s a total of 532 persons.

The conflict has displaced some 300,000 people and the Armed Forces-PNP combine have rescued 1,723 civilians from the war zone.

Still, some Muslim political and religious leaders insist that they cannot anymore continue living in the crowded evacuation centers in Iligan City and elsewhere. They plan to return, dramatically, on July 24, calling their move “Occupy Marawi.” The date coincides with President Rodrigo Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address.

In other words, they are willing to go ahead and take their chances amid the intermittent exchange of gunfire and booby traps and grenades, waiting for anybody who ventures into the deserted buildings and alleys.

Problematic as these Maranaos are, the rest of Filipinos continue to express their solidarity and support for them thru donations of basic goods, and words and messages of encouragement. 

Those advocating to exacerbate the crisis in Marawi by returning to the city ahead of official go-signal from the military should think twice before they plunge into a serious security quagmire of their own making.

Whatever reasons they have for disobeying official evacuation policy, whether personal, political, or religious, should be set aside in favor of good old survival.
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