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The first batch of Filipino seafarers who were abandoned by their Greek employer and stranded for three months in a port in southeastern India arrived in the Philippines. In a statement released by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), 15 of the 21 seafarers...

Pinoys in UAE pledge help for Marawi residents

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Recoiling from the shocking news back home about the carnage and resulting exodus of civilians from the besieged Marawi City, leaders of the Filipino community in the UAE have banded together and drawn up a plan of action to help victims of the armed conflict.

Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes has offered to have the Philippine Consulate General’s premises as venue for any activities that may be held for the purpose, including a proposed inter-faith prayer vigil.
“Kung gusto nila, sa Consulate natin gawin. We fully support it. How can you argue with inter-faith. It’s what UAE is all about,” Cortes said.

Wafa Qasimieh, executive cultural consultant at the Gov’t. of Dubai’s Department of Islamic Affairs, who also is FilClub adviser, for her part, indicated a donation drive; while Engr. Maria Fe Tata Dayot, FilClub chair, said the organization, comprised of 75 groups in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, is finalizing other measures.

“I am glad the Filipino community sees this as a nation,” said Cortes. “We see a cross-section, a cross-regional approach. Hindi lang yung mga taga-Marawi ang kumikilos kundi ang lahat from all the other regions,” said Cortes.

Marawi City is capital of Lanao del Sur, which is part of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Qasimieh meantime said she “feels sad and worried” at what is happening in Marawi City. “All we can do is, first: include them in our daily prayer as regards their safety and the immediate solution to resolve the conflict, restore peace and security of the people,” she said.

“I personally extend my hand through sending cash, goods and clothing for them to use in their daily lives, especially in this holy month of Ramadan. They are struggling. Where will they get the source of their Iftar?” Qasimieh added.

Dayot said FilClub has a plan to help in any way it can. “What we can do to help? One, prayers are there. Two, everyone is sharing information so that families and friends are aware of the developments. Three, everyone is suggesting ways to help,” she said.

Dayot said plans are also afoot for OFWs in the UAE who have families affected by the conflict in Marawi City.

For his part, Roy Tamano, advisor to the group, Maranao Community in the UAE, who first raised the proposal to hold inter-faith activities, is thankful for the Cortes’ and FilClub’s moves.

“What happened in Marawi is catastrophic. It was so sad to witness what unfolded in the first two days of the siege,” said Tamano, who was in Marawi City at the time supposedly for a homecoming. (Please see Eyewitness Report on the next page).

“Our 12-hour ordeal helping to evacuate people of all walks of life, running for their lives, was a very memorable experience,” Tamano said.

As of press time, fighting continues with almost all residents of the city, which is around 202,000 as per the 2015 census, scattered in about 13 evacuation centers in Iligan City and other parts of Lanao del Sur. The Philippine Red Cross has reported that no less than 2,000 families have been displaced.

“Here in the UAE, some of our friends, especially FilClub, are planning to initiate inter-faith prayers, some are even planning to collect whatever help the individuals may contribute. As a native of Marawi, we really appreciate this much and are thankful,” said Tamano.

Town hall
Moves to extend help to the displaced residents of Marawi City stemmed from a town hall meeting held, May 27 at the Philippine Consulate General attended by Foreign Affairs Secretary Allan Peter Cayetano who was visiting UAE at the time.

Discussions during the jam-packed event, attended also by Ambassador Constancio R. Vingno, Jr., Cayetano’s wife, former congresswoman and incumbent Taguig City Mayor Lani Cayetano, and about 300 community leaders, touched a lot on the Marawi situation.

“May I request… let’s pray for Mindanao because I doubt that the president would like to go out while there is pending security problem that will endanger people’s lives,” said Cayetano when asked by Qasimieh about President Duterte’s scheduled visit to the UAE, which had been postponed four times since last December.
“And hindi lang lives, but people who have evacuated Marawi. They don’t know kung ano ang babalikan nila. They say that in war no one wins,” Cayetano added.
According to official sources, Duterte was supposed to swing by UAE en route to Manila following his Moscow visit.
Security
Duterte, responding to security threats posed by the Maute Group’s siege of Marawi City, declared martial law covering the entire Mindanao, which elicited strong reactions from several quarters including human rights advocates.
The Maute Group has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and is moving to create the Islamic State of Lanao.
Cayetano said Duterte merely noted the “domino effect” of such action by the radical islamist group in opting for martial law.
“The president is a strategist. He had a good strategy in keeping the peace in Davao City. But now, he is not only the mayor of Davao. He is the president of the whole Philippines. So one thing that he took note of is the domino effect,” Cayetano said.
“Some are saying that Maute group is just a small group. But because the president is aware that there are certain sensitivities everywhere and there are peace talks ongoing; there are historical injustices na pinaghuhugutan ng ating mga kababayan maging Muslim man o Kristiyano. And there are also political forces that cannot accept president Duterte as the president whether totally or in the terms of geopolitics. I’m not saying they are involved. I’m just saying that ganun kabigat ang decision making niya (Duterte),” Cayetano further explained.
Cayetano indicated that the 60-day military rule may be extended if the situation in Marawi City has not been fully addressed by then.
“The Martial Law is not open ended. The Constitution says 60 days and it also provides if kailangan ma-extend. But if the rebellion will not be solved within 60 days, then we have a bigger problem than martial law. Martial Law is not the problem. It’s the solution. The problem is the terrorism. That’s what we should focus on,” Cayetano said in his brief interview with media following the town hall meeting.
Cortes said the Filipino community “must place full trust on the government, especially in the manner it is most appropriate to address the situation.”
Dayot, for her part, said that while she agrees with the imposition of martial law “we should be vigilant againt any form of abuse or wrong implementation.”
The body count, as of press time, or six days from the day the siege started on May 23, has reached over 100, including 19 civilians, according to media reports from the Philippines. (With Gelin Castro)
PHOTO CREDIT: REUTERS

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