The Hubert H. Humphrey Alumni Association of the Philippines held its 23rd Humphrey Voices Series entitled “Rebuilding Marawi” on July 19, 2018 at the Senate of the Philippines in Pasay City.
In welcoming the participants, Humphrey Alumni Association of the Philippines’ “perpetual president” Atty. Arnel Jose S. Banas said it was the first time that a Humphrey Voices Series was being held in the Senate.
There are four Humphrey fellows in the Senate who have gone through 10 months of non-degree academic study and professional enrichment in the United States for mid-career professionals from designated countries.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian graced the event, together with Senate Secretary Myra Villarica, 14 of the only 120 Humphrey fellows in the Philippines since the program started in 1978, consuls/representatives from the US and Spanish Embassies, Philippine-American Educational Foundation, University of the Philippines- Los Baños, Senate directors and staff, senators’ staff and other guests.
Three speakers discussed the current efforts in rebuilding Marawi—Humphrey Fellow Atty Avelino Tolentino (MIT), Humphrey Fellow Aleem Guiapal (Michigan State University) and British Chevening Fellow Samira Gutoc (Oxford University).
Senator Gatchalian, a favorite Humphrey’s forum speaker, addressed the audience after an impassioned presentation by Ms Gutoc who time and again have appealed for a more inclusive and culturally distinct government response to the needs of the internally displaced persons of Marawi. He gave assurance that the Senate is exercising its oversight functions over the rehabilitation.
“We really need to exercise our oversight functions as much as possible and as detailed as possible. Again, it’s a very complex rebuilding. We build the roads with religious, political and ideological connotations, and we have to approach this as sensitive as possible. So, we’ll take up that challenge and rest assured that we will be as detailed as possible in terms of looking at how these will be executed in the next few months,” Senator Gatchalian said.
He assured that the Special Committee on Marawi Rehabilitation would be convened as soon as possible once sessions start again next week.
In one of the talks, I was particularly touched by the video presentation on “Kambisita,” a Marawi City government and Task Force Bangon Marawi-led project which allowed displaced families to visit their homes and retrieve their personal belongings in the most-affected areas. These are located at “ground zero,” or the Main Battle Area (MBA).
Since Kambisita started on April 1, a total of 10,835 evacuees have visited the MAA, and over 20,154 psychosocial activities have been provided to the people of Marawi.
In the same video presentation, one Muslim resident said she and the community have always been wary of soldiers but that upon seeing how hard they were working for the welfare of the evacuees, they realized that they were friends and that they only meant well.
“Now, I compare them to the DSWD. Because they have been so helpful. They’ve been distributing the relief goods. I was wrong about how I perceived them, and it has been replaced with a more positive image,” she said. – BEEN THERE DONE THAT NI JOSEPHINE CODILLA