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Rafael M. Alunan III

To Take A Stand

WHEN government and society come together to address a national problem, the “whole-of-nation” principle is at work. It epitomizes national unity, solidarity, and teamwork. This is what Rotary Club of Manila’s (RCM) “One Rotary, One Philippines, One for Marawi” attempts to do — harnessing private sector companies and civic groups to partner with government agencies to address humanitarian assistance needs of people impacted by armed conflict and natural disasters.

In the early stages of the war in Marawi, I went there with fellow-Rotarian Jack Rodriguez to assess how RCM could be a force multiplier, if you will, to the government in anticipation of a developing humanitarian assistance crisis. From July 1-3 we met with evacuees in Iligan; local datus and imams; a Mindanao-based civic group, Team Humanity; TF Marawi; local government and regional assembly officials; and a search-rescue group. We returned to Manila recommending to the RCM board of directors a two-year humanitarian assistance program covering RCM’s centennial year (RCM, for information, is Asia’s and the Philippines’ first Rotary Club and this year marks our 100th year of “service above self” to the Filipino people).

The board approved the recommendation to organize “One Rotary, One Philippines, One for Marawi.” We chose “One” to symbolize whole-of-nation united in purpose and urgency. Four program components were chosen:

a. Medical-Dental

b. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

c. Prostheses

d. Water and Sanitation

We linked up with government and civilian organizations to bring our concept of “oneness” to fruition.

To date, we’ve stitched a formidable network of pharmaceutical donors; air transport by Philippine Air Lines (PAL) and the Philippine Air Force (PAF); doctors from Our Lady of Peace Mission, Alejandro Doctors Clinic, Philippine College of Physicians and Physicians for Peace; logistics support from TF Bangon Marawi, Team Humanity, the Department of Tourism (DoT) and Pepsi-Cola Products Philippines, Inc. (PCPPI); security from the AFP and PNP; augmentation from the DSWD, DoH and LGUs; and generous rotarians.

Before we rolled out the program, we returned to Marawi in September and consult those we met the first time around to make sure we got it right.

When we got the thumbs up, we kicked off by visiting our wounded warriors in V. Luna General Hospital and the Philippine Army General Hospital to bring good cheer and listen to their stories. The main takeaways — our soldiers were united in spirit to return to the battlefield; and urban warfare is the toughest and most difficult form of combat. In five months of fighting, over 150 soldiers died (versus 1,000 of the enemy) and around 2,000 more were wounded only to return again to fight alongside their brothers.

Some 26 barangays in Marawi were totally destroyed in the fighting and is now the focus of reconstruction that hopefully gets completed by the end of 2021. At the start of the war for Marawi’s liberation, hundreds of thousands from Marawi and environs sought refuge in evacuation centers and in the homes of relatives and friends.

Today, almost 70,000 families have gone back to their homes except for those that came from Ground Zero or the Main Battle Area.

To date, “One Rotary, One Philippines, One for Marawi” has held 5 medical missions in Marawi, Baloi, Saguiaran (twice), and Cagayan de Oro. Approximately 5,000 patients have been served. We could have doubled that number if not for weather conditions that prevented evacuees from reaching the medcap sites; lack of ground transportation to bring them on time; and local information dissemination issues.

Last week, we concluded our 4th and 5th missions in Bgy. Sogod, Marawi and in Saguiaran. Approximately 850 individual displaced persons (IDPs) were treated by our medical teams led by Ramon Magsaysay awardee Sr. Eva Maamo M.D. and Dr. Capt. Sharon Reyes, M.D. We were joined for the first time by the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) including 10 members from Amai Pakpak Hospital; nurses from RCDG9, ARESCOM; and a dental team from 103rd Bde 1st Div., augmented by local DoH, DSWD and city health officers.

Like in previous trips, we applied “Completed Staff Work” or CSW that required iterations in communication and coordination to ensure a trouble-free mission as much as possible. We thank CSAFP Gen. Carlito Galvez and his J-Staff; TF Ranao Group Commander BGen Ramiro Rey, concurrently Special Forces Regimental Commander; TF Bangon Marawi! ASEC Felix Castro; Col. Acmad Omar, Jr. PAF, Tactical Operations Commander at WESMINCOM; Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra; and MSU President Dr. Habib Biston Macaayong,

Local media coverage and interviews were carried out by Radio ng Bayan, DZRH, RMN, GMA7, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Manila Bulletin. Medicines were donated by PHAP Cares through the request of Dr. Hartigan-Go; Pharex and Prosel Pharma, Inc., Hizon Laboratories, Inc, Dyna Drug, Getz Pharma Phils, Inc, and Pascual Consumer HealthCare through the request of Rtn Abe Pascual; and donations obtained by Rtns Juan Montel and Hans Palacios, Jr.

Additionally, medicines were purchased from cash donations by RCM Foundation and PCPPI Foundation. The PAF provided a C-130 to ferry our medical teams and medical cargo. The 103rd Bde provided 4×4 and 6×6 trucks to ferry our medical teams and cargo to and from the sites. PCPPI also distributed Premier water and Gatorade at the two medcap sites, and provided 3 vehicles as well for the use of the team. Ambassador Acmad Omar lent us the use of his house when we ran out of hotel rooms in Iligan to accommodate the team.

Teamwork by Rotarians from RCM, Quiapo Central, Padre Burgos, San Fernando La Union, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and Metro Ranao assured the successful conduct of this medical mission. Special thanks to Vice-Chair Jack Rodriguez; PDG Lyne Abanilla (head for Medical Missions and Prostheses); Dr. Dulce Gust (head for PTSD); and Rtn Juan Montel (head for Water and Sanitation); PP of Padre Burgos Dr. Naomi Lachica; PP of RCM Jimmie Policarpio; and CP Yussuf Macalangcom, Pres. Col Ebs Moxir and PP Datu Haron Ali of Quiapo Central.

Next stop: Jolo, sometime in September, where over 30,000 are homeless due to a massive fire that leveled 2 barangays several weeks ago.


Rafael M. Alunan III served in the Cabinets of Presidents Corazon C. Aquino and Fidel V. Ramos as Secretary of Tourism and Secretary of the Interior and Local Government, respectively. He Chairs the “One Rotary, One Philippines, One for Marawi” program and is a Centennial Director of the Rotary Club of Manila.