Marawi civic leader and peacebuilder Samira Gutoc today warned that the mental health crisis and insufficient basic social services that continue to burden internally displaced peoples (IDPs) from Marawi City might lead to more conflict and distress in the region if left ignored by the government.

Gutoc, together with fellow #OtsoDiretso opposition candidate Erin Tañada, visited Marawi City last Thursday, including the most affected area (formerly Ground Zero) as well as the temporary shelters of IDPs.

“Life in evacuation centers leads to depression. Hindi natin ginugusto na nasa temporary status tayo. Nasa international law yan, the right to return (your home) has to be guaranteed,” said Gutoc, the former spokesperson of the Ranao Rescue Team that spearheaded the rescue and relief operations at the height of the Marawi siege that started in May 23, 2017.

The former ARMM assemblywoman was referring to international humanitarian law’s Rule 132, which states that “Displaced persons have a right to voluntary return in safety to their homes or places of habitual residence as soon as the reasons for their displacement cease to exist.”

The administration declared the city liberated from threat groups on Oct. 17, 2017. But until now, thousands of residents stay in temporary shelters, with little to no access to decent and efficient basic social services.

“We continue to call on President Duterte, sana wag niyang kalimutan itong Ground Zero. Hindi lang physical trauma kundi pati ‘yung undocumented trauma na kinikimkim na lang ng marami nating residente,” Gutoc lamented.

According to the Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO), at least 30,732 evacuees have manifested mental disorders as of Aug. 1, 2018.

‘Rehabilitation delayed is rehabilitation denied’

“Akala ko sa hustisya lang may justice tiis, justice denied. Eh pati rin dito, rehabilitation delayed, rehabilitation denied,” the former journalist pointed out, warning that these burdens might fuel uprising among the evacuees.

“So you’re going to have a volcano of resistance that can happen. [We] cannot control emotions ng mga tao. [Marawi City is the] educational capital. ‘Wag ninyong wasakin ang pangarap at kinabukasan ng mga kabataan,” Gutoc, a recent UNDP N-Peace awardee, stressed.


Gutoc also called on the government to be transparent on its plans, especially on the billions of funds allocated for the Marawi rehabilitation and ensure that the programs would be sensitive of the peoples’ aspirations.

“There should be transparency on how donations are being coursed… Siguraduhin po na the development plan is not development aggression. The development plan should reflect people’s sensitivities and their way of life.”

“Siguraduhin po na talagang nanggaling sa mga tao [ang suhestyon]. Ang kanilang aspirasyon, right to self-determination ay nirerespeto dapat. Kultura, ‘yung kanilang way of life hindi rin dapat nababastos,” Gutoc said.


Aside from consistent consultations with residents, Gutoc also underscored the need to focus on confidence-building among residents.

“There’s still time to repair this, Mr. President. Kailangan po confidence building, stakeholder participation. Let’s not create more trauma and alienation which could encourage the youth to be recruits of threat groups. I remind the DILG, invest in police security confidence-building. Recruit more muslims, imams in the PNP and military. Kailangan po kasama ang mismong taga-rito para sa confidence building,” Gutoc said.

She also said the people should elect senators who represent the aspirations and dreams of the marginalized, especially of the Marawi residents.

“It goes back pa rin na kailangan ng mga senador na tumitindig para sa mga boses ng tao… I think it’s only Otso Diretso that will make a commitment sa Ground Zero survivors,” she added.

Samira Gutoc, an Otso Diretso senatorial candidate, champions peace. She was recognized by the Philippine Daily Inquirer as Filipino of the Year in 2017 and by the Junior Chamber International as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM).