Terror makes life in Marawi miserable

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COTABATO CITY—Eid’l Fitr, one of the two colorful festivals that Muslims celebrate annually, will never be the same again after local terrorists overran Marawi City, the Philippines’ center of Islamic learning and culture.

Instead of preparing an array of food choices for reunions, Maranao families this year were rationed canned foods, rice and noodles in evacuation centers, mostly in Iligan City.

Luz Santos-Sani, a government engineer who assessed humanitarian facilities for refugees, said the condition of families sheltered in evacuation centers was miserable. There was not enough water and they also lacked toilets.

With Mindanao placed under martial law by President Rodrigo Duterte, local officials issued an advisory prohibiting the holding of the Eidl Fitr prayer in public, open spaces—contrary to the usual Muslim practice.

But Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani Sayadi said she had to toe the line for security. She said it pained her to prevent her fellow Muslims from holding prayers in public places, but a government security review of the events preceding the Marawi siege showed that terrorists took advantage of a huge religious assembly from May 16-17 to transport firearms and ammunition.

Santos-Sani, the district engineer of Marawi City, also reported to her superiors in the Department of Public Works and Highways cases in which food supplied by the government and humanitarian organizations was hardly enough, prompting her department to send in truckloads of food packs.

DPWH Undersecretary Emil Sadain said he was tasked by Secretary Mark Villar to deliver the donation, consisting of 450 sacks of rice, 90 boxes of canned goods and 69 boxes of 3-in-1 coffee.

Executive Secretary Laisa Alamia of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said the region was profoundly grateful for the assistance which she and DPWH-ARMM Regional Secretary Don Loong received Friday. The truckloads of food assistance will be turned over to the ARMM Humanitarian Emergency Assistance Response Team.

ISLAMIC FESTIVAL. Filipino Muslims gather at the Rizal Park’s Quirino Grandstand to offer prayers and celebrate the feast of Eid’l Fitr, a festival marking the end of  Ramadan, the  Islamic month of fasting. Norman Cruz and AFP

Many evacuees have also not performed the Eid prayer because of the lack of water and lavatory facilities for personal hygiene.

Lanao del Sur 1st District Rep. Zia Alonto Adiong said this year’s celebration of Eid’l Fitr was the saddest in recent history.

“This local militant group robbed us of the chance to observe Ramadhan peacefully, and stole from us the opportunity to celebrate Eid’l Fitr and be with our loved ones in this religious occasion,” Adiong said in a statement on Saturday.

“For centuries, this Islamic tradition has been observed uninterrupted until now. It pains us to see families who can’t even share meals together, pray together and continue observing this Muslim tradition simply because our current state doesn’t permit such ‘family gathering’ to take place.”

Amid the ongoing crisis in Marawi City, President Rodrigo Duterte urged Muslims and Christians to build a society grounded on love, mutual respect and understanding.

“I join our Muslim Filipino community in celebration of Eid’l Fitr,” Duterte said in his message.

“The first day of the Islamic month  of Shawwal always brings great joy to our Muslim brothers and sisters. This signifies the successful journey towards spiritual purification through a month-long fasting. On this special day, remember to thank Allah for bestowing upon you the resolve, courage and fortitude to obey His commandments during the blessed month of Ramadhan,” Duterte said.

“May this renewed sense of spiritual accomplishments give you the strength and courage to cultivate our communities. In times when all odds seem stacked against us, it is our willpower and faith that will always see us through. Let us channel our energies towards fostering national unity—because dedicating our lives to the betterment of humanity is the best way to demonstrate our devotion to God,” the President said.

“Together, let us work towards building a society that is grounded on love, mutual respect and understanding,” he said.

Senator Grace Poe, in her message, said she hoped that Eid’l Fitr would serve as a symbol of the collective pursuit of peace and unity in a time that the country’s solidarity was being put to the test.

“Let us stand together against the forces that seek to instill fear in us,” Poe said. With Sandy Araneta and Macon Ramos-Araneta

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