By Wilnard Bacelonia

MARAWI CITY, June 7 (PIA-ICCC) – Internally Displaced Persons here who won the Task Force Bangon Marawi’s (TFBM) Hajj raffle in 2018 felt that it was Allah’s will to make them experience the fifth pillar of Islam.

During the celebration of Marawi Week of Peace 2018, TFBM allotted 25 sponsored slots for IDPs to perform Hajj in the Holy City of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia as part of their social healing.

Hadji Abdullah Abdullah, 71, a resident of Lilod Madaya and now stays at a temporary shelter in Sagonsongan Transitory Site, is feeling lucky having been sponsored by TFBM to join the pilgrimage.

“Of all the happiness I have experienced in my life, it was the most unforgettable. You know why? At my age, I feel so blessed that I have been able to experience the fifth pillar of Islam which many Muslims can’t afford,” Abdullah said.

He also noted that despite the pain brought by the Marawi siege, TFBM was able to help them enlighten what they were going through.

“Think of it. I’ve lost four of our family members in the siege. I can’t even count the value of all we’ve lost. Why am I thanking TFBM? They were not just thinking about the material things we need. But also of our spiritual needs and healing,” Abdullah added.

Recently, the Commission on Audit (COA) questioned the Hajj raffle saying that the purpose of the fund transfer was not among the authorized expenses enumerated in the original memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the Office of the President and the Housing and Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC).

Noraldin B. Diator, 46, who is now also staying at the temporary shelter in Sagonsongan Transitory Site thanked TFBM chairperson and HUDCC Secretary Eduardo del Rosario for his efforts in helping the Marawi IDPs.

“It helped me so much in realizing the importance of sharing. I am very satisfied with the intervention and initiatives of Secretary del Rosario,” Diator said.

Secretary del Rosario also recently appealed to COA not to disallow the diversion of P5-million worth of rehabilitation funds to the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) to sponsor the annual Islamic pilgrimage.

“The P5 million released by TFBM to NCMF was covered with a MOA. Hence, we are writing an appeal to COA not to disallow this vital transaction since the P5 million was properly dispensed with by NCMF. Besides, the funds used came from the President’s Social Fund and not from the funds appropriated by Congress,” he said in an official statement.

Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte appealed to COA in his speech during the Eid’l Fitr 2019 celebration in Davao City to reconsider its findings.

“As a matter of fact, there is a fund that is set aside to enhance the travel of our brothers and sisters for the pilgrimage to fulfill a lifetime dream,” he said.

“The pilgrimage is more important for the Muslims than a mansion. Sometimes you have to take into consideration really this subculture. So, I am asking COA to reconsider. What is P5 million? Actually, that P5 million is worth billions in terms of your generosity to finance the poor Muslim people to experience Hajj. (WLBacelonia/PIA-ICCC)