mourning marawi

check out the atlantic‘s  A Victory Against ISIS in the Philippines Leaves a City Destroyed.  see the photos and weep for marawi.  one doesnt have to be from there, one doesn’t have to be muslim or maranao, to feel anguish, especially for the sixty percent poor who lost what little they had, and to wonder if there was no other way.  read leandro dd coronel’s Marawi on one’s mind.

Marawi City used to have 200,000 residents. How many of them will or can go back to their former homes? There’s nothing to go back to.

… Did the government win? Did the Maute lose? … What is clear is that the people of Marawi are the losers in the battle of Marawi City. The place is in such total devastation that it will take decades to rebuild it. And it will take a lot longer than that to rebuild the people of Marawi’s lives.

but read too benignO’s Can Marawi City’s reputation as a no-go-zone for Filipino Christians be changed?

Marawi City is one of, if not the most, predominantly Muslim city in the Philippines and has, fairly or unfairly, suffered a reputation as a no-go-zone for Filipino Christians for some time. Across various online forums, assessments of how safe one could feel in Marawi City are varied. Mindanao State University (MSU) — one of the Philippines’ top universities — is located in the outskirts of Marawi. It is often cited as proof that Christians can be counted as inhabitants of Marawi and, indeed, the majority of MSU students and faculty are Christian. However a commentor in the Living in Cebu Forum site noted that most MSU students “go to Iligan [City] for their big city needs”, presumably a preference to the option of venturing into downtown Marawi. Indeed, another went further to describe Marawi as “a scary place”…

Safety, it seems, is conditional and relative in Marawi City. A Yahoo! Answers thread yielded some interesting anecdotes from Netizens responding to the question “Marawi City: Is it safe to go around? I am a christian…?” One remarked that Marawi is safe “if you are from that place or have friends to watch over your back” …

Another said that it is a place where vehicles stolen in Cagayan de Oro City are sent to, never to be recovered again — perhaps a reference to stories about military and police personnel pursuing criminals themselves being disinclined to pursue them into Marawi itself.

As such, it is not surprising that Marawi and cities like it are prime candidates for Islamic terrorists to establish footholds in. Because they are regarded as “Muslim territory” the perception that people in these regions are more tolerant or even accommodation of Islamic extremists is there.

It comes back to the question of how well Filipino Muslims, as has been asked of Muslim minorities living in predominantly Christian or secular societies around the world, can police their own ranksand manage on their own issues that contribute to the radicalisation of members of their community. Lanao del Sur and surrounding provinces are part of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao and, as such, enjoy some degree of freedom to self-govern. This granting of latitude to govern as an autonomous entity was on the basis of religious identity as the name given to this collective of provinces implies.

The people of Marawi and the greater community of Filipino Muslims should confront the reality of Islamic extremism and how, by all accounts, much of it flourishes in predominantly Muslim-populated regions in the Philippines. This reality cannot be escaped by simply “praying for peace” or counting on social media “influencers” to liberally issue meaningless calls to “stand together in solidarity” with their “Muslim brothers”.

i’m afraid that in marawi’s case, the major consideration was not the residents’ welfare in the immediate then-and-now but the marawi (and mindanao) territory’s status in the long-term.  hapilon and the maute brothers were not only leaders of extremist terrorist bands but hapilon was also the ISIS caliphate’s official rep in east asia.  the goal was to take over and turn marawi into an ISIS province with hapilon as governor.  in effect dismembering the philippine republic.

dismemberment, losing a territory, is anathema to the republic.  losing control over predominantly muslim parts of mindanao to terrorist groups and islamic fundamentalists scares the bejesus out of us all — including peace-loving moros i would think — in a mindanao that is already predominantly christian.

there has to be a way of granting the bangsamoro self-rule and i believe a BBL, not federalism-for-all, is the way to go.


  1. ANTONIO MONTALVAN II: That orientation gave me two impressions. The Philippine military had evolved into a professional army, shedding off its repressive image under Marcos. The more serious impression was that of a military that, by performing under an emphasis of community relations, was subtly showing its indifference to dance with Mr. Duterte’s fandango of a brutal martial law and a looming revolutionary government.

  2. Overkill? Some locals question Marawi shelling
    by JC Gotinga
    Marawi City, Philippines – With this city won back from pro-ISIL fighters, military troops have begun their gradual exit, allowing civilian officials and journalists to enter the blockaded central district where most of the fighting took place.

    The view that unfolded was staggering: five months of heavy shelling has left Marawi’s centre of life and commerce an apocalyptic wasteland. Pockmarked chunks of steel and concrete that used to be homes, shops, schools and mosques covered the streets, except where bombs had left craters.

    Although thankful that the fighters of the Maute armed group have been flushed out of their city, some local leaders wondered if its physical destruction – mostly from military aerial bombings – could have been avoided.

    “We were against the air strikes from the very beginning,” said Zia Alonto Adiong, a regional legislator and spokesman of the civilian committee that manages the Marawi crisis. “We were hoping for a different strategy.”

    “It was overkill,” said Agakhan Sharief, spokesman of a local council of ulama or Islamic authorities. “Why? Because there was an opportunity for negotiations with the Maute. They were considering surrender.”

    Government troops were caught off-guard when the Maute fighters attacked Marawi on May 23, aiming to set up a “caliphate”, inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.

    The Maute group’s leaders and many of its fighters knew the city well. They built rat holes and mazes through adjoining buildings and moved around in the sewers, while their snipers nested on tall structures.

    Military leaders were quick to admit weaknesses: their troops were not used to urban warfare; they had underestimated the attackers’ numbers and firepower.

    As scores of military and police officers died early in the battle, many from sniper fire, the government launched air raids to prevent further losses.

    The move sparked opposition and criticism from local civic and religious leaders but the military justified it. Army lieutenant Emmanuel Garcia said they were using “appropriate and commensurate force because [the Maute fighters] have the advantage of knowing the different nooks and crannies of the city”.

    “We are not being irresponsible in the use of air strikes,” he added. “These are deliberate. These are planned.”

    However, misdirected air raids ended up killing 13 of the government’s own soldiers. A hostage who escaped from the Maute told Al Jazeera that he witnessed a government bombing that killed at least 10 civilian captives.

    No negotiations
    About a month into the siege, the military started gaining the upper hand and some Maute fighters signified their intention to surrender.

    During a brief ceasefire on the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr, Sharief and seven other ulama entered the war zone to speak with Abdullah Maute, a leader of the fighters, to negotiate for hostages.

    “Abdullah was willing to discuss surrendering to the government on the condition that the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) mediated for them,” said Sharief. “We sent the president several letters about this. We never got a response.”

    The MILF, an armed rebel group, is on the verge of a landmark peace deal with the Philippine government to establish a more substantially autonomous Islamic region.

    The MILF leadership said it would intervene only if President Rodrigo Duterte was keen on talking to the Maute.

    Duterte, in whose hands rested the fate of the peace deal, was unequivocal on the matter: “We do not negotiate with terrorists,” he said in a public address.

    Even without formal talks, Adiong said the Maute made tall demands, including their safe exit from Marawi in exchange for hostages. “That was unacceptable. Even the civilians would not have agreed to that,” he said.

    Sharief, who helped broker past peace talks with the MILF, suggested that the government could have enlisted the MILF’s troops to fight the Maute.

    Unfair but understandable
    With the government intent on military action, its forces had little choice but to attack from the air, said Jose Antonio Custodio, a security analyst and former consultant of the Philippines’ National Security Council.

    “The Maute group had complex fortifications and defence positions while the military was hamstrung by the urban setting,” he said.

    “So it would be unfair to say the Marawi war was overkill,” he added. “But I understand why the locals feel that way.”

    With roughly 400,000 people displaced from their homes or jobs, the Philippine government is under pressure to rehabilitate Marawi quickly and effectively.

    “Or else, the people will be ripe for rebel influence,” Custodio warned. Pro-ISIL groups at large may pounce on people’s resentment to recruit fighters.

    “We must remind the people who the real enemy was,” said Adiong, who now helps coordinate efforts to rebuild the city. “None of this would have happened if the Maute did not attack us. It was really their fault.”

  3. Truth and memory in #Marawi

    Both the journalists who covered the battle in Marawi and Filipino Muslim/Moro activists who now have to work to alleviate its human rights and humanitarian consequences have many questions. [See for example those raised by Froilan Gallardo, who was as close to what was happening as any civilian could be]. Unfortunately, there seems to be an emerging push by the Philippine government’s
    official and social media spokespersons to drown out these questions with a triumphalist message of “winning.” There is now a corresponding pushback against that and a demand that truth and accountability be pursued.

    I agree.

    And the right time to do this is now, not later and not when the triumphalism of ‘winning’ has drowned out questions not only about how that ‘win’ came about (including whether the Philippine military’s entire chain of command including its commander-in-chief respected human rights and humanitarian law) but why this episode of the conflict ended up being the drawn-out, nearly half a year long, massive displacement-causing, destructive war it came to be.

    Without even examining accountability for Marawi city’s destruction, there are for example, reports by displaced residents of their homes and businesses having been looted. A small matter? Plain theft? Not for families who spent their savings on what they’ve now lost or for communities who depend on those sources of livelihood. But “looting” in the midst of armed conflict may also happen to be the war crime of pillage, a crime under both a 2009 Philippine law criminalizing pillage and under the treaty (to which the Philippines is a party) setting up the International Criminal Court (ICC).

    I was Defense Assistant Secretary when the MILF’s Camp Abu Bakr — a ‘camp’ with a large civilian community — was bombed by the Air Force on Joseph Estrada’s orders. Did it stop the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)? No. Did it end further hostilities? No. Neither did Estrada’s triumphalist, lechon (roasted pork)-bringing feast inside the Muslim separatist movement’s camp make peace easier to attain afterward. I would have wanted a post-conflict assessment of both the military and political strategies applied in that period. I would have called for an accurate and honest report on civilian casualties and displacement. [But I resigned from the DND soon after — which is another story.] These the AFP and the DND-attached disaster response agency do not do or do not do well. A professional military organization is mandated under the AFP Modernization Law (that is what the sale of Fort Bonifacio paid for); professionalization isn’t just about upgrading weapons or buying new military equipment. It calls for modernizing the military’s doctrines and seriously enforcing human rights and humanitarian law standards down the chain of command, top to bottom.

    Professionalizing the AFP, consistently and independently of the US counter-terrorism agenda, is indispensable for the AFP to adequately address the military components of what will definitely be a longer war involving both homegrown and regional/international networks of violent religious extremists and, potentially, secessionists dissatisfied with the failure of the government to implement the Bangsamoro peace agreement.

    I work in and up to now on issues of justice and accountability involving post- and ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Kenya/Somalia and Libya. I’ve seen how a less-than-professional military response can become an even more incendiary factor for violent extremism when the marginalization that is at the root of the grievances exploited by extremists and the prolonged displacement caused by the military response is left unattended. The battle of Marawi may be over but the roots that made it happen may have been nourished by a Philippine government leadership that not only prioritized the wrong war but made the one in Marawi more destructive than it should have been.

    [And here let me add this photo that Ninotchka Rosca shared in discussing her support for the Vice-President’s suggestion that some of the ruins from the battle of Marawi be preserved as a reminder of what happened and the lives it took, civilian and military. It is a stark scene. But it is a photo that will be forgotten years from now. In my opinion, any discussion of rebuilding the city is incomplete if the only goal is to bring back what was before. That is impossible. Rather than acting as if it didn’t happen, a discussion of how best Marawi can be memorialized, led by its residents, should be encouraged. Rather than opposing the Vice-President’s idea [which isn’t unique; one of the most famous landmarks in Berlin are the ruins of a church preserved along the city’s main road, destroyed when it was bombed in WW II by British warplanes], it should be acknowledged for starting a necessary discussion about how Filipinos as a society remember Moro experiences of war. If the Philippine President can speak about remembering the massacre of Moros in 1906, why can’t the Vice-President bring up how we might remember the destruction of the country’s only predominantly Moro city in 2017?]

  4. ALEX MAGNO: [from Catalonia to Bangsamoro]

    … All these developments lead us to the question of deepening the autonomy granted the Muslim communities in Mindanao.

    Many fear that creating a Bangsamoro entity will serve as stepping stone to eventual secession. Autonomy, in the Philippine south, has been viewed by many in the organized movements as a transitional condition. There are influential voices that see eventual independence as the end-state.

    Those who oppose a “basic law” for an entity called the Bangsamoro likewise fear that deeper autonomy will militate against national assimilation. It will merely function as a launching pad for independence movements down the road.

    Catalonia’s evolution from a region enjoying substantial autonomy from Spain to one eventually demanding independence will reinforce the arguments of those who say granting a Moro “substate” will undermine the integrity of our nation-state. It will impede integration and provide a ready-made mechanism for demanding independence down the road.

    There are enough Moros reluctant to call themselves “Filipinos.” They blame “imperial Manila” for their marginalization and backwardness. That sort of narrative encourages the belief that the formation of a separate nation is the solution to their troubles.

    All the elements that explain resurgent nationalism elsewhere – victimhood, the sense minority group lose more than they gain from staying within the nation-state – are present in Mindanao.

  5. MALOU TIQUIA: …In Marawi, we saw huge resources introduced into the local economy and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) has not even reported where the money came from. The defense department claims it came from IS but the paper trail has not been presented to the public. There is also the huge stack of bills that the AFP found in one of the houses together with checks issued by government banks. Some are saying these were from the IRA, others claim these were from elections 2016, while others point to rediscounting activities by some enterprising local public officials. As well as the supply of funds, there were also the supplies of armaments, food, communication devices and vehicles.

  6. CECILIO ARILLO: “The need for a joint congressional investigation on the Marawi siege”

    A joint congressional investigation on the Marawi siege must be immediately conducted, not only to pinpoint responsibility as to why and how it happened, but more so to prevent it from recurring.

    Here are a few suggestions and some stark lessons learned from the incident:

    With a population of 201,785 and a total land area of 8,755 hectares, Marawi City, Lanao del Sur’s capital, is roughly divided into 96 barangays at 91 hectares each, making them the most closely knit local government unit in Mindanao.
    Specifically, it is bounded by Kapai and Saguiaran towns to the north; Lake Lanao to the south; Bubong and Ditsaan municipalities to the east; and Marantao town to the west, not far from the popular Bagang Beach and the city’s commercial center.

    By inference, Marawi City, the Islamic and educational capital of the Moro autonomous region, is the most secured place in the whole of Mindanao with 96 brigades comprising more than 1,000 barangay officials, tanods and militias under the local peace and order councils serving as safety and security multipliers for the police forces and two military brigades (marines and army) at both ends of the city. Another army brigade is in Iligan City, and an army division is also in Cagayan de Oro City.

    How a handful of Islamic States of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-affiliated terrorists easily captured the city defies intelligence, safety and security logic from both the military and civilian standpoints.

    The defense department must explain why it adopted a conventional war doctrine against a handful of Maute terrorists, inordinately using large forces from Luzon and the unified commands in Mindanao with jetfighters, drones, tanks, artillery pieces and explosives that resulted in massive destruction of infrastructure and friendly fire casualties, instead of just using a cost-effective small-unit operation by the police and military who are trained to fight in urban guerrilla warfare?
    The number of casualties from the military and police alone estimated at 165 killed and more than 1,000 wounded validated what many observers said that the unnecessary presence of so many government combatants presented sitting-duck targets to the terrorists in an area supposedly under control by local government units.

    There were no accurate reports on how many enemies and civilians were killed or wounded as of this writing, but the death toll could be more as on the 128th day of the Marawi siege alone, the death toll to government troops already stood at 152 and 711 members of the ISIS-inspired Maute terrorist group.

    The idea of rebuilding the city in a systematic way is already upsetting. For instance, the city has a population of 201,785, but there are already more than 400,000 people claiming to be victims of the siege. In short, war freaks and scoundrels are now at play.
    Contractors of every size and shade are busy pushing and outsmarting one another at the departments of Public Works, National Defense, the Interior and Local Government and the Trade and Industry, hoping to get choice cuts for the multibillion-peso rebuilding program of the government. By the way, this is a job that could be handled by military engineers and builders at a cost.
    Instead of arms and other war materiels, the Duterte administrations should opt for funds, construction equipment and expertise from other countries willing to help.
    A strategic plan must be drawn up, starting with a clear understanding of the problem, how to solve it, what are the means required to accomplish it and make sure that the government will not spend more than necessary.
    The need for a point man, preferably a structural engineer, to oversee the rebuilding process is absolutely advisable so that mistakes of the past are not repeated, such as corruption, buck passing and finger pointing.
    The bad habit of claiming credit, just like at the end of the Marawi attack, has again shown its ugly head among government officials and military officers, a situation where bootlickers are rewarded rather than the achievers, who actually risked their lives, the comfort of their homes and their loved ones while fighting the enemies of the State.
    On reflection, I am sure our bright and idealistic lawmakers have a lot more to say and will come up with the right combination of policies to correct the inequities, bearing in mind their fundamental obligations to represent the will of the people, properly allocate public funds and protect and secure the State and its four elements—people, government, territory and sovereignty—in all circumstances.

    Otherwise, the government will again be wasting time and resources, creating and managing crises, instead of shaping the future.