The last time I was in Congress was maybe five years ago. The site of the recent blast was located in the entrance in the House of Congress which I used to enter many times, as a college student, lobbying for concerns of minorities.Now, I had to walk a long way at the back, past a garden of landscaped greenery, to an emptiness on a Thursday afternoon. Not many people were around. It wasn't session time. But
maybe people feared nearing the place after the attack on a public institution like this. Where else can we be protected if the halls of law-making are not protected anyway?
I hurriedly walked to the Office of the Committee Chairperson on Natural Resources at the far end, a newly constructed MITRA building, handing the office of Congressman Iggy Arroyo a copy of a signature campaign in Marawi City containing support for the creation of a Lake Lanao Development Authority (LLDA). I serve as a working group member of our NGO, Philippine Muslim Women Council , advocating for the protection of the watershed of the country's largest freshwater lake, from which more than half of Mindanao's energy needs are sourced (confirmed by a Department of Energy personnel).
Yesterday, I set a meeting with Arroyo's staff in the morning and even invited a lawyer, Chief of Staff of Sulu Rep. Yusoph Jikiri to discuss the environmental degradation of Lake Lanao in Marawi City. But we had to postpone the meet in the afternoon. Some food served at the National Power Corporation (NPC) meeting we attended yesterday must have caused something to destroy our early morning routine.
As I traversed the halls of power in Manila trying to convince our lawmakers to take on this environmental bill that seems to have no priority in Senate and the House, I feel these battles are lesser compared to what we have to face on the streets and in the countryside. Seeing the Maranao CD/ DVD vendors along Manila's sidewalks, I see the major effect of displacement of communities due to lack of opportunities for them in the provinces. An AIM faculty tried to change my paradigm of engagement with government agencies. He told me, you Samira, might be creating a legal fiction (solution) when you yourselves and the community can solve the problem of the lake
(whose unstable fluctuation levels causing flooding in the fields, indirectly causes the poverty of the people because of displacement due to unirrigable lands) by community empowerment.
Food for thought, as I leave Manila, still hopeful that what our elders in the Save Lake Lanao Movement (SALAM) fought for in the past 20 years or so and recently the Ranao Claims Against the Power Plants (RCAPP) might bear fruition in my lifetime.
(My, My, My Marawi is Samira Gutoc-Tomawis' column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Samira describes herself as a "freelance writer, peace advocate, artist-wannabe, co-convenor of the Young Moro Professionals Network, currently writing a book on militarism in the Philippines and also MindaNews' correspondent in Marawi City and Lanao del Sur." You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)