Following the ongoing crisis at Marawi City, the La Salle Academy (LSA) in Iligan City and the De La Salle Philippines network of Lasallian communities nationwide have been conducting relief operations for the Filipinos caught in the firefight. According to DLSU’s Office of the Vice President for Lasallian Mission (OVPLM), they still need around 3,000 relief packs for displaced families who have fled to Iligan City for safety.
LSA on the ground
LSA Social Action Staff Andrew Pamorada mentions that they are already repacking 2,000 goods for Saguiaran, Lanao Del Sur, the nearest town to Marawi City where most of the evacuees are located. These goods include laundry powder, bath soap, shampoo, toothpaste, sardines, beef loaf, water, and tissue, the delivery of which will be handled by the Young Moro Professional Network this weekend. According to Saguiaran Mayor Macmod Muti, Saguiaran has the most number of evacuees which comprise a total of around 3,880 families.
As of press time, the LSA has also helped other evacuation centers in Iligan City including Brgy. Maria Cristina Gym and Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT), where they provided blankets, mats, toiletries, and food, among others. Other main evacuation centers in Iligan City include the Iligan National School of Fisheries in Buruun and Brgy. Tibanga Gym.
MSU-IIT, however, has already halted their relief operations. “They stopped operations already because what they do is they’ll accept students from the main campus, let them stay there for a few days, and give them fare or send them back to their homes. Students are mostly from Mindanao like Cagayan de Oro, Surigao, Agusan, and Davao, [among others],” Pamorada explains.
In terms of distributing the relief packs, OVPLM Special Projects and Initiatives Coordinator Carmel Puertollano expresses that the difficulty in the distribution is caused by the abruptness of the crisis. “[LSA] is coordinating with [various] groups to ensure that the packs are delivered to the evacuees. In terms of the situation, it’s best to transfer cash, because it’s more difficult to bring in-kind donations there. [Moreover], everything should be halal.”
Pamorada explains that most of the evacuees they interviewed were “really sad with what happened,” and that they are hoping they can get back to their normal lives in Marawi. “Most of them are planning to stay for a month or so [with] their relatives until everything gets back to normal,” he adds.
According to the local government, 90 percent of the population of Marawi, numbering around 200,000, has already evacuated the city. The rest who stayed are the fathers of the households who are guarding their houses.
Updates on the crisis
Clashes between the government and Maute troops erupted after failed attempts by the military to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon in Brgy. Basak Malutlut, Marawi City. According to security officials, Hapilon has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) last 2014, and was chosen to lead an ISIS branch in Southeast Asia.
Since then, data from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) show that the death toll in Marawi City has risen to more than 100 people, which includes residents, Maute members, and government troops. Moreover, the Department of Social Welfare and Development reports that the number of displaced people has reached around 71,000.
Meanwhile, last May 30, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has expressed their intention to extend “humanitarian assistance to civilians who are still trapped” in Marawi City. In a statement by MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, “modalities of cooperation would be established between the government of the Philippines and MILF.” President Rodrigo Duterte also assured that the recently imposed martial law in Mindanao will not be used against the MILF.
The declaration of martial law in the region, however, is met with conflicting sentiments. While some constitutional and security experts argue that the declaration was an “extreme reaction to a manageable crisis,” others have cited the need for martial law to ensure stability and security in the area.
While the situation in Mindanao intensifies, Solicitor General Jose Calida states that the events in Mindanao are no longer a rebellion of Filipinos, but rather something that has “transmogrified into invasion by foreign terrorists,” adding that militant groups now want to make Mindanao part of the caliphate.
ISIS has yet to declare a state in Southeast Asia, but analysts believe that it is “merely a matter of time” before they do. As of press time, the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research claims that more than 60 groups in Southeast Asia have pledged their allegiance to ISIS.