Under siege: Marawi, Robredo

It has been over a month since the Marawi City siege started. Residents are hopeful the end is in sight and they can return home or at least check if they still have a home to go back to.
Matching, if not exceeding, the terror wreaked by the Maute group is the terror spawned by government’s air strikes. Through interviews with the media and nongovernment organizations, the evacuees and survivors pleaded for an immediate stop to the aerial bombardment in their city and its environs.
They pointed to the aerial bombings as the major reason for leaving their homes. The indiscriminate use of such weapons, they said, and the resultant massive destruction and loss of lives among civilians are disproportionate to the terrorist acts of the Maute/Abu Sayyaf Group. They also believe the soldiers and police have the capacity to neutralize the Maute/Abu Sayyaf without resorting to the use of aerial bombs and mortar shelling. They complain of looting – their personal belongings were taken, even their cash and jewelry from safe vaults.
The overwhelming humanitarian response to the evacuees’ needs is touching and heartwarming. People from all walks of life, regardless of creed, class, religion, beliefs and traditions, extended assistance to brothers in need.
Stories of Muslims protecting their Christian neighbors, friends and employees give us hope that the Philippines will not breed ideological Muslim extremists willing to self-immolate and inflict damage on others, including innocent women and children, to express their rage and prove their point.
The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS), through former Health Secretary Espie Cabral and former Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, have launched a campaign to provide dignity kits to women soldiers and women still caught in combat zones. They also donated scarves, shawls, malongs and prayer mats for Muslim women in evacuation centers.
The biggest challenge now is the rehabilitation of Marawi. With buildings and residences flattened, business at a standstill, it will take time for it to rise again, if it ever will. We hope businesses can resume soon to provide much-needed employment and supplies for rehabilitation and everyday needs.
The sudden spike in the prices of food and other basic necessities, coupled with the loss of income due to the ongoing conflict and destruction of Marawi, has increased the number of people flocking to evacuation centers for food and medical assistance. Some of them are residents from nearby areas who have no means of livelihood.
Definitely, relief assistance, medical missions, psychosocial post-trauma counselling must continue while residents try to pick up the pieces. Those of us who worked with the children for peace campaign in Pikit, Cotabato in 2001 know how much a sustained program of psychosocial intervention is needed. The mental and emotional impact of war and dislocation, especially on children, can be serious unless addressed professionally. Social workers observe symptoms of trauma among children, including fear, inconsistent and destructive behavior, panic and confusion. Such alarming behavior may cause invisible but permanent scars.
Above all, advocates must continue efforts to educate and promote peace and bring the message to combatants that violence will only beget violence.

Common folk launch piso campaign
Help may soon come to besieged Vice President Leni Robredo, who faces a staggering a P15.5 million bill for the recount of votes in a protest filed by election opponent former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. A group of women, mostly from TOWNS, and their friends, including men, has launched the Piso para sa Laban ni Leni campaign to protect their votes.
The Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, has ordered Robredo to pay the sum for her counter-protest against Marcos. She has so far forked over P8 million, using a mix of personal funds and loans from relatives of her late husband, Jesse, and has less than three weeks, or before the July 14 deadline, to raise the balance.
In launching the campaign, the TOWNS women led by Nina L. Yuson told the media: “We are people who believe in Leni Robredo’s integrity, capability and commitment to our country. We voted for her. We will do everything we can to protect our votes. We don’t want to lose our sacred votes to Bongbong Marcos who filed a case before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal to demand a recount.”
They added, “Marcos has bottomless resources to have his baseless accusation prosper. The Vice President did not cheat him. She garnered widespread support even among those who voted for President Rodrigo Duterte.”
The group had trooped to the Supreme Court to file a petition to be allowed to help pay the fees. Many responded to the Piso para sa Laban ni Leni campaign by collecting bottles and bags of coins and cash from the common folk.
“We want to do this especially since Marcos is using the money his family plundered from the Filipino people to pay for the recount while Robredo, being an elected public servant, has only herself, her family and friends to depend on for financial help,” supporters say.
Their message is loud and clear: The Vice President is not alone in her legal battle. She has the help and support of Filipinos who want their own votes to count and be protected.

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