How should Marawi be rebuilt? For whom? And with whom?
This is what the last few months have come to.
- All available statistical and geospatial data on Marawi and Lanao del Sur have been uploaded on www.openmarawi.com. Free, open source, and to be constantly updated in the coming weeks.
- Almost a year after the Siege and six months after the last bomb fell on the city, Assad Baunto, David Garcia, and I have finally released a policy note summarizing options for decision-making on land, housing, property, and urban design. Maps were made with JR Dizon, Mikko Tamura, Bj Bantog Gochoco, Ysmael Mangorsi, and representatives from Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Download briefer here: https://goo.gl/iRYXkS
Thank you to the many jedis in government, the academe, and civil society who made this possible, along with The Asia Foundation and DFAT-Australia.
To the leadership of the city government of Marawi, the provincial government of Lanao del Sur, and the Regional Government of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao–my deepest gratitude for letting us outsiders work with you.
Thanks to a few twists of fate, I’ve got a short (read: heavily redacted) piece on Marawi published by the Australian National University’s East Asia Forum. It comes in several weeks later than I’d like, but at any rate, I’m posting here an earlier unedited and less circumspect version, written roughly two, three weeks ago.
Marawi was a victory for Islamist extremism in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. The next choices taken by the Philippine government will determine the extent of its spread.
It has been more than sixty days since the outbreak of violence in the Islamic City of Marawi, just over 500 miles south of Manila, and kilometre zero of the island-region of Mindanao. What started in the morning of May 23 has led to over 314,000 persons displaced. More than half of the lakeside city is in ruins; approximately 100 civilians and hostages are still trapped in the crossfire. Aerial bombardments and house-to-house fighting continue. As the first widespread incident of urban violence in the Philippines—its partial precursors being Zamboanga in 2013, Ipil in 1995 and the razing of Jolo in 1974—the impact of the Marawi siege is unprecedented, not least in its implications to the rise of violent extremism in the region.
While the reported death of Abu Bakr Baghdadi and the jihadi group’s losses at Mosul and Raqqa signal a transformation of Daesh presence in the Middle East, Marawi by all accounts was a victory for islamist terrorism in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. From a ragtag group of ‘black flag wannabes’ that could barely stage a bomb attack on the US Embassy in Manila in 2016, the Maute group now has enough street cred to attract international interest and support. They have achieved what others have failed to do: signal to the disgruntled and marginalised that violent extremism, particularly through urban warfare, is a viable path forward.
Originally a FB post but migrated here because the maps and photos wouldn’t show.
Dahil ako’y taga Maynila lamang, hanggang mabilisang sulat lang ako. Para sa minamahal na mga kaibigan at katrabahong Meranaw, kung mamarapatin.
It has been over a week since the May 23 Maute Group attack on the Islamic City of Marawi, and President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao. Skirmishes to clear and control the city are still ongoing. The majority of its 201,785 recorded citizens have since fled on foot, leaving behind combatants, journalists, and the occasional terrified resident trapped in the crossfire or attempting to protect their homes and businesses from looting.
Many questions remain. Was it truly a botched military operation against Abu Sayyaf Group leader Isnilon Hapilon, who had purportedly ventured out of Basilan to operate in the mainland, unifying the disaffected under the black flag? Or was it well planned in advance, this scene of least fifty young fighters emerging from Lake Lanao, occupying and damaging key installations—hospitals, churches, university buildings, city hall, the local jail? Was the Chief of Police truly beheaded (despite photos emerging of him appearing alive and with head intact)? Can we call them ISIS or IS-Ranao? Why is Marawi City being shelled? How will the airstrikes affect power dynamics on the ground? Will the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao set the stage for nationwide policy?
What is established is that as of May 31, at least 22 civilians, 30 security personnel and sixty-odd Maute and ASG fighters have been killed. Over 44,000 families have been recorded as displaced across Northern Mindanao, taking uncertain shelter during the Holy Month of Ramadan in evacuation centres and the homes of friends and relatives. Only twenty percent of the metropolitan area has power restored; food in surrounding communities is scarce. Tensions have spilt over to neighbouring towns. It will take weeks before comprehensive damage assessments can be conducted but one wonders if Marawi, with its rich 400-year-old history and its role as the economic, political, and cultural heart of Lanao del Sur, can fully recover.
Mainstream approaches to Mindanao’s peace and conflict situation is through its security or political dimensions, and for the immediate phase, the humanitarian response for the likas (“those who left”, a more culturally-appropriate alternative to bakwit), or internally displaced persons. However, Marawi, and to some extent its predecessor Zamboanga, begs the question: how can we start thinking about peace in terms of how conflict dynamics play out in actual space and place, in the fabric of our communities and cities? Violent state-non state contestation in the Philippines has been largely rural, with a few sporadic exceptions. So does Marawi signal a contemporary turn to urban warfare, similar to many of our Western counterparts? Is urban conflict the next Philippine battleground?
Writing this quick note to process one of the many strange developments of the week, which included my being roped in last minute to present a study conducted by the World Bank and the International Organization for Migration on marginalization through land dispossession in the Bangsamoro region. Presentations are part of my usual day-to-days but this was unusual—it was a launch at Camp Darapanan, the present headquarters of the largest armed revolutionary group in the Philippines, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (or MILF, read as M-I-L-F, not the lewd joke familiar to most westerners).
It just so happened that our lead author, Dr. Fermin Adriano, was unable to fly to Cotabato and our rather crazy and generous team leader, Matt, chose to gleefully task me with translating the key technical messages in a vernacular that would be understood by the larger audience, and not just the international actors and VIPs present in the room. And that entailed being the lost young female non-Muslim, non-Mindanawon pseudoacademic on the dais with Mindanao peace process heavy hitters such as Ishak Mastura, Guiamel Alim, Rufa Guiam, peace panel chairs Mohagher Iqbal and Irene Santiago, plus the amerul mujahid himself, Al-haj Murad Ebrahim. Kumbaga sa Tagalog, pinabili lang ng suka, napadpad na sa Darapanan. (Which actually describes a fair chunk of the seven years of this life, to be fair.)
As our brothers and sisters say, alhamdulillah. On to the next volume of work.