Defense chief sees Marawi crisis end, preps for rehab

by Maricel Cruz

DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, martial law administrator in Mindanao, has said the military is eyeing to end the Marawi crisis by end of September.

Lorenzana  said Wednesday they would conduct the “post conflict needs assessment” of the situation in the entire Mindanao beginning October and it would take them “a couple of weeks.”

“After that,  we will get a good idea how much we need to rehabilitate Marawi, how long, and how much money we need to rehabilitate,” Lorenzana told reporters at the sidelines of the DND briefing on the Marawi conflict with lawmakers.

Meanwhile, reports from Maguindanao said four local officials were injured after they were hit by two succeeding explosion at the outskirts of Datu Sinsuat town Wednesday morning.

The injured officials were identified as barangay chairman Datu Pendatun Sinsuat, kagawad Sinaribom Lalalog, Army Staff Sergeant Eddie Cane and PO2 Bobby Gulalani Pendililang.

The twin blasts occurred within a 20-minute interval at Upper Semba junction in Barangay Semba in Datu Sinsuat town, said Capt. Arvin Encinas, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division based in Awang, Maguindanao.

Encinas said the first explosion took place at about 7:30 a.m. but left no injuries. The second blast occurred at around 7:50 a.m. injuring the four officials.

Elsewhere in Mindanao, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has offered security to Christian groups who will extend assistance for internally displaced persons in the Marawi conflict, according to Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Peña.

The bishop said MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim assured them of help in the Church’s rehabilitation program that focuses on healing and peace building efforts.

Dela Peña, together with Cotabato Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, talked with Murad in Rome for a meeting convened by the Community of Sant’Egidio, a global movement of lay people known for its work with the poor and refugees.

The dialogue was attended by other Muslim and Christian leaders as well as representatives of civil society from Mindanao.

“Murad gave us assurance that they will provide us security,” Dela Peña said.

Lorenzana said they would get inputs from the people of Marawi and Lanao if martial law was still needed while rebuilding and rehabilitating the conflict-stricken areas.

“Now, if they say our area can do without martial law, we will also consider that. But, the final determination whether to continue martial law or not rests with the President,” Lorenzana said.

He said the defense department would do the necessary recommendation in October on whether martial law in Mindanao would be lifted soon or extended.

Under the “Duyog Marawi” program, the group will focus its operations on at least 13 coastal communities within the vicinity of Marawi.

These communities include Sultan Naga Dimaporo, Malabang, Balabagan, Picong, Marantao, Balindong, Bacolod-Calawi, Madamba, Ganassi, Calanogas, Marogong, Kapatagan, and Tugaya.

These areas were not devastated by the conflict but were “greatly affected” because they lost the center of their livelihood and their basic services when Marawi was put on lockdown.

They also played hosts to thousands of home-based internally displaced persons or IDPs.

“The MILF is patrolling in these areas. If you have Al Haj Murad with us then we can be assured of security,” Dela Peña said.

The MILF has been waging a decades-long rebellion to establish an independent or autonomous homeland in Mindanao for the nation’s Muslim minority.

The Duyog Marawi program will also help the communities of the Mindanao State University and the Balo-i Cathedral.

“We will do what we do best – community engagements and opportunities for healing and reconciliation,” the bishop said.

Dela Peña also asked Christian communities to continue caring for the Maranaos by sending support whether through the government, the Church, or other aid organizations.

“This is a critical moment in the history of Muslim and Christian relations in Marawi—this will either bring us closer or will widen the gap,” the bishop added.

“The peace in Marawi will not only benefit the Maranaos, it will benefit all of us—the whole of humanity. Let us show to the world that violent extremist ideas will not flourish in our lands,” he added.

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