Outside the box thinking

The priority of media now is to report on the real situation of evacuees or IDPs in order to provide accurate data to people and organizations who want to help. I don’t think that their detailed reporting on the fighting – even so far as going alongside the troops as they fire their guns at snipers (thereby disclosing their position to the enemy!) – does not add value in any way except well how manly our armed forces are with their newly-acquired gears. What I’m saying is, let the armed forces do their war thing because we very well could imagine their thing even without media coverage, and not be too focused on that. The information the rest of the country need right now is the situation of displaced persons as well as estimates of trapped population or those who remain in Marawi City- what’s happening to them, their needs, and the like.

For one, the ‘no ID no entry’ rule. I understand why this rule must be enforced but then on the other hand let us also exercise common sense and good judgment as we apply the rule (at checkpoints, etc.). In other words, let us not turn away people fleeing the City without IDs on them just because this is the rule. Many who were turned away are the very people who are truly poor (eg. the old, women, children, young people the ones without vehicles who had to walk miles) and are outside of the social insurance and health systems (hence their having no government IDs at all). Turning them away because we don’t want to “break the rule” does nothing positive for security and only doubly marginalizes the already poor. Hence it is very critical that those in charge of checkpoints are persons with good judgment, intelligence, and common sense.

Second, management of evacuation centers and camps. We’re not new to this. In fact, by this time after so many natural and man-made disasters we’ve been through we should already be experts at it. By this time, sanitary, medical, sleeping, even praying or quiet-time facilities etc. should have been in place, because order on the outside brings order in the inside (ie. the human psyche) which in turn helps displaced people to heal from their trauma and loss. But how come centers look disorganized? Evacuation centers should not be like pig sties. Let’s remember the humanitarian imperative to uphold human dignity in times of disasters- it’s not just the food “relief” that humanitarians need to secure for the affected but also relief in it’s holistic meaning ie. restoration and protection of dignity.

Another, air dropping of food relief for people who remain in the City. A Director I was speaking to a few days earlier said he was very worried about the situation of people who are still in the City, whether by choice or trapped (as when a Director-friend of his went to the City on the second day of the conflict because her relatives are there and she wanted to bring them out herself). I told him, laughing, that the armed forces, it’s humanitarian arm (is it the Office of the Civil Defense?), otherwise, why not Bam Aquino’s recently-established GoNegosyo in ARMM (as it’s first outreach mission)?, should have also dropped food alongside the bombs (or, food-loaded caravans if GoNegosyo?); coordinated with ground personnel for a secure drop and holding area.

Such things, lessons derived from the one before (or, conflicts around the world) would make this martial law different. For me, and as I said, I don’t care if the armed forces pursue the bad ones to the edge of the earth, that’s their job after all, only that the effects of such a pursuit on the human population and community should also be taken cared of with as much care, commitment, and dedication. After all, the resources that are used to pursue the bad guys are the people’s resources (taxes).


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