After almost 20 years of suffering as internally displaced persons (IDPs), residents of 118 households in Barangay Bakung in Patikul, Sulu have returned safely to their once devastated village.
In gratitude, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) paid tribute to the efforts of the Sulu Provincial Task Force on Ending Local Armed Conflict (PTF-ELAC) for its “crucial role” in rebuilding Barangay Bakung.
The CHR said that residents of the barangay were forced out of their homes after state and non-state armed groups used their barangay as a battleground.
Because of the “extensive rehabilitation” made by the Sulu PTF-ELAC, these IDPs were able to return to their homes 20 years after.
“We never thought that we can return to our place. We were IDPs for 20 years,” Barangay Bakung Chief Hammisa Anuddin told the CHR.
The CHR lauded the Sulu PTF-ELAC for its “holistic approach” in rebuilding the lives of the IDPs. There are now a village hall, a 2.4-kilometer farm-to-market road, a learning center, a public toilet, a water system, streetlights, as well as egg-farming facilities to provide livelihood to the 118 households in the community.
“CHR is one with the residents in their expression of gratitude to the municipal government and Sulu PTF-ELAC. Beyond recovery, the dignified return to their homes grants them new opportunities and an invigorated outlook at life,” said CHR Executive Director Jacqueline Ann de Guia.
“CHR continues its support of the government’s commitment to assist and protect displaced citizens, especially those affected by armed conflict and disasters,” De Guia, a lawyer, said.