ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/27 July) — A Maranao woman leader on Thursday maintained that human rights violations have been committed in the course of the military actions to recover Marawi City from the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group.
“Displacement is a human rights violation,” Samira Gutoc, a former assemblywoman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said at the forum hosted by the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission.
Gutoc, also a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission who resigned in the early days of the Marawi siege, said her fellow Maranaos complained that soldiers viewed them with suspicion if they did not bring any identification with them.
“Bakwit na nga kami. Kahit cedula (residence certificate) wala kami,” she said.
She said that one time, Scout Rangers entered the pharmacy at Amai Pakpak Hospital and got some stuff without asking permission from the doctors and nurses. “Hindi kayo nagpaalam, kukuha kayo ng gamit (You took some stuff without getting permission)?
“Just because it’s martial law you would tell the people ‘we’re the government now’?” she added.
She said that aside from being subjected to physical and emotional abuse, their spiritual and religious rights have been violated, too.
“Who among the Maranaos here were unable to read the Qur’an which we do during the holy month of Ramadan because during Ramadan our houses were bombed?” she asked.
The Maranaos in the audience, all evacuees from Marawi, raised their hands.
Gutoc further pointed out that of the P5,000 assistance that was promised for every displaced family, only P1,000 had been released so far, and that majority of the families had not received the initial amount.
“Our problem is where to get our daily food. So who’s fault is that? You drove us out without bringing our wallet, our passport.
“We’re not begging for the P4,000 but you’re the one doing this to us. When you give in installments your services, you also give in installments our death,” she said.
She said the evacuee death toll of 27 is only the official figure.
She pointed out that most evacuees are home-based or staying with relatives. “They’re ashamed to publish their dead.”
Gutoc also narrated that an evacuee collapsed while lining up for a t-shirt for three hours.
She said the man was forced to line up “dahil baka nahiya na isa lang ang t-shirt sa bag niya (maybe because he was ashamed that there’s only one t-shirt in his bag).”
She urged her fellow Maranaos to document human rights abuses. “If you won’t write (the violations), there will be no redress. If you won’t write, the violations would not be known. Don’t be afraid, note the time of incident, get the names.”
In the same forum, Ramlah Abubakar, an evacuee, said “nahihirapan na kami sa Iligan (we’re having a hard time in Iligan), wala kaming (we have no) business, nagkasakit kami (we’re getting sick).”
Sittie Racmad Rasim, an evacuee staying in Saguiaran in Lanao del Sur, said they received all the relief assistance intended for them.
“But we want to go home. We don’t want to live on charity. We want to start our life anew and reunite with our loved ones,” she said in Filipino.
Asleya Ampuan, another evacuee, appealed for an end to the aerial bombing.
Saying civilians were also hit by the bombings, Ampuan said in Filipino that “not all of us are terrorists.”
“We voted for you, President Duterte, because you promised change. This is not the change we want,” she said.
Aida Ibrahim, of Tindeg Ranao, asked the military to treat them as human beings.
She said that by committing alleged abuses “kayo na po ang nagtuturo na mag-armas ang mga kabataan” (you’re the ones teaching the youth to take up arms).
She expressed fears that if the conflict drags on and they are unable to return to their homes, “baka gawing plantation ang lupa namin maliban sa (our lands might be converted into plantations aside from) ecotourism.”
“Ito bang martial law ay para talaga sa Maute o palayasin kami (Is martial law intended for the Maute or to drive us away)?” she added.
President Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, the same day that the Maute Group attacked Marawi.
The Supreme Court upheld the imposition of martial law as legal.
After the martial law proclamation lapsed on July 22, Congress approved Duterte’s request to extend it until December 31 this year.
The National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission is an initiative of Suara Bangsamoro, Tindeg Ranao, Promotion of Church People’s Response and other progressive groups. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)