COVER STORY

Remembering the Marawi crisis

It's been a year since the Marawi siege shook the country. Refresh your memory of what happened on that fateful day of May 23, 2017.

Marawi_01_CNNPH.jpg The five-month siege of Marawi City left more than a thousand dead, 359,000 displaced, and damages and losses of ₱18 billion.  

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 23) — The Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which culminates with the Eid al-Fitr festival, is a time of reflection and celebration. But for residents of Marawi City, it brings back painful memories.

This time last year, fighters linked to the terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS) stormed the capital of Lanao del Sur, launching a siege that lasted for five months. 

The bloody war between the Maute Group and government forces prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in over all of Mindanao.

What came to be known as the Marawi crisis ended in the destruction of homes and lives, as well as the displacement of hundreds of thousands.

One year after the devastation, CNN Philippines recalls the events leading up to the siege and what has transpired since then. Here is a guide to help refresh your memory on the Marawi crisis.

 

How did the fighting in Marawi begin?

On May 23 last year, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) tried to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, a wanted leader of the Abu Sayyaf rebel group in Marawi City. As it turned out, Hapilon had allied with the Maute Group which supported ISIS. Maute rebels moved to fend off the military operation, triggering a firefight.

Footage provided by the AFP later showed that the Maute group and foreign terrorists had actually meticulously planned to capture Marawi to establish an ISIS caliphate or "wilayat" in the region.

The chaos began with reports that armed men took over Amai Pakpak Medical Center. Netizens trapped in their homes shared videos of men in black patrolling the streets. A Catholic priest, Fr. Chito Suganob, was kidnapped.

By evening, President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law over all of Mindanao — an order that would be extended until December 2018.

 

Who are these ISIS-affiliated fighters?

The terrorists were composed of homegrown Maute group members, and some 40 foreigners who hailed from Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. There were over 900 men.

One of their prominent leaders was Hapilon, who had been picked to be emir of an ISIS caliphate in Southeast Asia. The chase for Hapilon set the Marawi siege in motion.

The Maute group was led by the Maute brothers, Abdullah and Omar. The AFP confirmed the deaths of Omar and Hapilon in October, in the days leading up to the end of the siege. Abdullah and two other Maute brothers, Madi and Otto, were reported dead a month earlier.

Their parents were arrested during the crisis. The Maute patriarch, Cayamora, died in August, but his wife, Farhana, is still in police custody.

Among the foreign nationals involved in the siege was the Maute's Malaysian financier, Mahmud bin Ahmad. His body is believed to have been one among the 50 found under a collapsed building. Another foreigner, Indonesian Muhammad Ilham Syaputra, survived the siege and was arrested in November.

Despite the arrest and death of prominent personalities of the regional ISIS chapter, policy and security experts warned that another leader would soon emerge.

READ: Why victory in Marawi doesn't mean the end of ISIS in Asia

Footage provided by the Armed Forces of the Philippines shows that the Maute group and foreign terrorists planning the Marawi crisis.

 

What happened to the people of Marawi?

Some 47 civilians were killed during the war; over 1,700 were rescued; and more than 359,000 individuals — or 72,000 families — were uprooted.

As of April 20 this year, 48,400 families were still displaced. Over 3,000 families remain scattered across at least 40 evacuation centers in the region, while over 45,000 have been classified as home-based displaced families.

But beyond the numbers is the psychological toll of war, which Lanao del Sur Crisis Management Committee spokesperson Zia Adiong described as "deeply traumatic." He stressed the need for continuous psychosocial debriefings and medical assistance for the survivors.

Adiong, however, also emphasized the resilience of the Maranao. "The concept of Maratabat, loosely defined as pride, somehow became the source for their gradual recovery," he said.

Marawi-Restoration_12_CNNPH.jpg A stuffed bear with a gun hangs outside a residence in Marawi. Non-government organization Save the Children estimates that 80,000 of those affected by the crisis are children, most of whom show signs of trauma and need psychosocial support.

 

 

How much more damage was done?

Over 900 enemy fighters were killed, but so were 168 government forces.

Bangon Marawi estimated total damage and lost opportunities at ₱18.23 billion. The Marawi Grand Mosque was among the structures that suffered huge damage.

Military aerial bombings were widely criticized by locals who complained these added to the destruction of the city. A total of 13 troops were also killed in botched air strikes, but the AFP insisted the bombings were needed to flush out terrorists.

"Had it not (been) for the air attacks, the armed conflict could have dragged on for years, and the government simply cannot handle a security threat that long," Adiong said, citing the military explanation.

However, the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict warned in a study that the destruction of Marawi could be twisted by terror propagandists "to blame the government for the city's destruction."

 

How did the fighting in Marawi end?

President Rodrigo Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi on October 17, but the fighting only ended five days later. The city was closed off until all the buildings had been cleared of explosives and booby traps.

The deadline for the end of the siege was set and extended at least four times: first on June 2, then June 12, July 22, September 30, and finally on October 15. The last date was later clarified to be a target date, and not a deadline.

 

In this exclusive video obtained by CNN Philippines, the bodies of suspected terrorists are lying under a collapsed building. One of the bodies is believed to be that of the Maute's Malaysian financier, Dr. Mahmud Ahmad, who was killed in the last few days of the siege. (Warning: Graphic content)

How much is rehabilitation worth?

Task Force Bangon Marawi Chairperson and Housing Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario pegged the budget for rehabilitation between ₱75 billion to ₱80 billion. This estimate was up from an initial ₱72 billion as it factored in additional requirements like the debris volume, a sanitary landfill, and a hospital, Del Rosario said.

The task force said it would set aside around ₱17 billion for the development of the "most affected area," while the remaining ₱55 billion would go to the rehabilitation of villages.

But a breakdown of the budget has not yet been finalized.

As of April 20 this year, government social services spent ₱582 million in total relief assistance; ₱2 million in financial assistance; ₱18 million in cash for work assistance for 59,245 families; ₱20 million in livelihood assistance for 3,266 families; and ₱1 million in transport assistance.

Foreign countries sent in donations. The United States contributed ₱1.4 billion or US $26.4 million in humanitarian response. Other nations that lent their support were Australia, China, the European Union, Japan, and Spain.

International organizations like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) also pledged support.

Non-government organizations and various personalities, including television host Anne Curtis, actors Robin Padilla and Piolo Pascual, director Joyce Bernal, and megastar Sharon Cuneta also sent help.

 

What is being done to rebuild Marawi?

In a briefing on May 4, TFBM assured the public that no private land would be forcibly be taken and cultural, historical, traditional, and religious values would be observed.

It also maintained that as soon as horizontal development is completed in 18 months, private houses and buildings could be reconstructed as long as owners secure a local government permit.

NHA-housing-Marawi_CNNPH.jpg Task Force Bangon Marawi estimates that about ₱55 billion will go the rehabilitation of villages in Marawi.  

Around six developers sent proposals to TFBM: Bagong Marawi Consortium, China Railways, China Harbour, Power China, and the Malaysian firm Alloy MTD. The sixth, Grand Bee, was not considered as its proposal did not cover all of the 24 barangays under the most affected area.

Bangon Marawi Consortium proposed to rebuild 250 hectares of Marawi's ground zero with an initial estimated cost of ₱17.2 billion. The consortium is composed of five Chinese and four Filipino companies.

The Chinese firms are the state-owned China State Construction Engineering Corp. Ltd., Anhui Huali Construction Group Co. Ltd., China Geo Engineering Corp., TBEA Co. Ltd., and Shandong Jinyuan Homes Industry Development Co. Ltd. The Filipino firms are Future Homes Philippines Inc., A Brown Company Inc., H.S. Pow Construction and Development, and SDW Realty & Development Inc.

 

What do Maranaos want during the rehabilitation process?

Samira Gutoc-Tomawis of Ranao Rescue emphasized that the rebuilding of Marawi needed to be holistic. She pointed out that with the Housing Authority and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) leading the government effort, rehabilitation was likely to focus on technicalities, with little sensitivity for the needs of the community.

"The mere fact that NEDA is consolidating shows how it's about the tangibles. For me as a Filipina Muslim, the intangibles are 90 percent of it... It's about relationships, trust, how we can build back our own community," she said.

Gutoc-Tomawis stressed the importance of Maranao representation in the Task Force. While she did not dismiss Del Rosario's leadership, she said she hoped the head of government efforts could be a "people person" and "on top of a damaged, emotionally affected community."

She also suggested that the plan for rebuilding Marawi include a cemetery where survivors could bury their dead.

"You can't have true rehabilitation when prayer over dead bodies is not accomplished," said Gutoc-Tomawis. "We have to build a cemetery [and have] cemetery management."

The former Bangsamoro Transition Commission member also emphasized the importance of legislation to protect ancestral domain in the face of developers coming into Marawi.

Meanwhile, Adiong said the government must work fast to help the survivors and combat extremist ideology.

He said the government should make sure those aligned with ISIS did not get a chance to capitalize on the destruction of Marawi to entice potential fighters.

"The intensity of military response during the siege against the terrorists must level or equal the intensity of help and services we provide to the people concerned," Adiong stressed.

St-marys-cathedral_Marawi_CNNPH.jpg A star-studded sky, or a bullet-ridden ceiling? Government troops gather for mass in the days leading up to the end of the siege.  

What can the public do to help?

Apart from offering prayers, there are a variety of organizations the public can donate to in support of Marawi.

These include the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees which funds projects like emergency shelters, fishing boats, and livelihood support.

There is also UNICEF, which accepts both one-time and monthly donations for water, sanitation, and educational support for the children of Marawi.

Save the Children also helps about 80,000 kids by providing school supplies, psychosocial support, and child-friendly spaces.

Apart from financial support, Adiong stressed the importance of an open conversation on how to avoid history from repeating itself.

"Keep the memory of the Marawi siege — the sufferings of the victims, the people who sacrificed their lives for the liberation — alive in the consciousness of the public," he urged.

CNN Philippines' Senior News Researcher Ella Hermonio contributed to this report.