BTC commissioner resigns over Marawi siege

Samira Gutoc-Tomawis with MILF implementing panel chair Mohagher Iqbal in a press conference last March. Mindanews Photo

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 31 May) – Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, human rights advocate and resident of Marawi City, resigned from her post as a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) following the siege of her hometown.

The BTC is tasked by the government to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law, or the enabling policy of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement of the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on 2012 and 2014, respectively.

Tomawis, in a phone interview, said her resignation was “driven by the overwhelming situation” of the crisis in Marawi and the “declaration of martial law.”

Furthermore, she said she was turned off by the “statement of President Rodrigo Duterte on rape that is offensive to the Bangsamoro women.”

Maisara Dandamun, also a member of the BTC, said in a Facebook post that in Tomawis’s communication to the MILF Central Committee and to the chair of BTC, her resignation was prompted by personal reasons.

Tomawis’s staff further said that her resignation was due to her frustration over the violence in Marawi “that resulted to the destruction of civilian houses and displacement of majority of the city’s residents.”

Tomawis was last seen with the BTC pro-actively engaged in public dialogues for the drafting of the bill. She was among prominent Bangsamoro personalities supporting the legislation of the BBL since 2016.

She reportedly did not anymore attend the BTC meeting held in Cotabato City Tuesday.

Since her resignation, Tomawis was seen in solidarity with local humanitarian institutions working for internally displaced Bangsamoro communities and has been attending meetings of local Bangsamoro civil society who has decided to prioritize the rescue of remaining civilians caught in the crossfire.

She likewise supported the need to tap the traditional leaders of Marawi and Lanao Sur to resolve the hostage crisis that victimized the vicar general of the St. Mary’s Prelature in Marawi, teachers of Dansalan College Foundation, and other civilians.

Meanwhile, Bangsamoro civil society leaders have been posting on social media their anxieties on the ongoing military operations in Marawi.

“You don’t understand. Stop the bombardment and let us go home so we can save whatever is left in our destroyed place,” said Drieza Lininding of the Bangsamoro Movement for Peace and Development.

Lininding used to be an avid supporter of President Duterte, even actively campaigning for him.

Mindanao Peaceweavers, a network of peace advocates, called on the President see the face of humanitarian crisis.

The group has called on the military to “immediately stop the airstrikes, indiscriminate firing and artillery shelling directed at civilian dwellings and public structures.”

They also appealed for a half-day “cease and desist from all forms of armed action” and invoke universally-accepted protocols on displacement and civilian protection accorded to internally displaced persons and at the same time with deference to the observance of the Holy Month of Ramadhan.

The group likewise urged the military, in coordination with the city government and local mediators, “to address the hostage situation and secure the safety of Fr. Teresito Suganob, his staff, parishioners and any other residents who are still being held captive by the Maute militants.” (Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews)