CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 November 2017

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City ruined but terrorism lives

MARAWI (UCAN): The news that the five-month siege of Marawi City on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao has finally been declared over has been welcomed widely by people affected by the on-going violence, with Bishop Edwin de la Peña calling it a signal to start rebuilding of the predominantly Muslim city.
 
“Thank God,” the bishop said. “We can now return to peace and order in the city, in the entire Mindanao, and the whole country. Praise be to God.”
 
But while the siege is now regarded as a thing of the past, rather than being liberated the city has been sacrificed and today is a pile of rubble in which no basic services operate and an operative remnant of resistance was active and holed up in a two-hectare area of the city until October 23.
 
In addition, there are an unknown number merged into the landscape in the villages and towns on the shores of Lake Lanao.
 
However, the chief of the Armed Forces of The Philippines, Eduardo Ano, described the neutralisation of what he called a remnant a mopping up operation, but the catastrophe, which has left some 1,000 people dead and over 400,000 homeless is now over and the government can begin to look at the rubble that used to be Marawi City.
 
But while the debris strewn streets may now be safe to walk around in, the cost to the nation has been horrific. Apart from the human suffering that has resulted, the expenses on lifting the siege have far exceeded US$60 million ($465 million) and the national treasury is faced with a devastated city that is looking at over US$1 billion ($7.75 billion) in reconstruction costs.
 
In addition, the Maute Group that took over the city is far from defeated and still remains a force in the lawless areas of Lanao del Sur, where its protection rackets, drug smuggling and gun running business are still alive and well.
 
The group is also known to be involved in piracy in the unstable area of the Sibitu Passage, which is a major international shipping lane. In January this year it captured a Korean ship and its whereabouts is still unknown. The captain is also still missing.
 
The declaration of finality in Marawi came a day after the government announced the death of Isnilon Hapilon, who is commonly known as the emir of the Islamic State in south-east Asia, together with Omar Maute, the leader of the Maute Group.
 
A group called Rodrigo Duterte Supporters, which runs a Facebook account with an estimated one million followers, is accusing Archbishop Socrates Villegas of being critical of the military action that is believed to have seen the demise of the two terrorist leaders.
 
“This is fake news,” the archbishop insists, saying that he never said such a thing and nor did two other accused bishops say the things that the fanatical group is spreading around with gay abandon.
 
The Maute are mostly composed of disaffected members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front, who quit in disgust when the groups threw their lots in on the side of peace and reconciliation, agreeing to go to the conference table with the government.
 
However, the president, Rodrigo Duterte, summarily called off the talks and shortly afterwards the Maute attacked Marawi and took control of large swathes of the city.

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