QUEZON CITY, Philippines – For Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, the decision reached by the members of Congress on Saturday, July 22 was a vote against the interest of the people of Marawi.
“The decision on the extension of Martial Law is a vote against the interest of the Maranaw people,” Tomawis told Davao Today in a phone interview here after she testified before the members of Congress convened in special session that extended the imposition of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.
“They are not from Marawi. They don’t understand that terrorism is a long-term, generational issue that’s born from the privacy of laptop and cell phone,” she said.
Such situation, Tomawis added, is being contributed or compounded by the fact that the government has not addressed the long-standing problems of the Moro people.
In her testimony before Congress, she told of the human rights abuses committed by government troopers against the displaced civilians of Marawi.
The abuses, she added, were committed while the air and ground operations continue in the area under the imposition of martial law.
The special session was convened to act upon the request of President Rodrigo Duterte to extend the imposition of
Martial Law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.
Members of Congress approved the President’s proposal via 261 to 18 voting.
Tomawis, , a former member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission who resigned following the rape joke uttered by President Duterte, was among those who were asked to testify during floor deliberation.
Filled with emotions, she narrated how Abdul Halim, a special child or considered mentally retarded was interrogated by government forces for being suspected as Maute member.
Halim was found by government forces in Saduk area in Marawi on the second week of the siege.
Hot water was poured on Halim’s hands, she said, as the psychological torture was applied to determine his involvement or connection to said terrorist group.
“We have photos on this,” Tomawis told the members of the Congress in session.
She also reported on the case of a certain Mr. Pundag who was among the 26 men rescued by men in uniform.
“They were asked to remove their shirts and were made to walk blindfolded,” Tomawis said.
But Pundag and the rest of the rescued men were shocked and filled with fear when one of the soldiers told them: “Maghukay na kayo ng inyong mga libingan.”
She also told of the case of two pregnant women who were arrested by authorities in Pagadian City for possessing dextrose in their bags.
“I am from Marawi City. Please ask us what do we feel. Please ask us, how do we stand up and arise,” Tomawis told the lawmakers in session.
In a separate interview with Davao Today after her appearance at the session, Tomawis said she they also decry the continuing intrusion into their houses in Marawi.
“Illegal entry sa mga bahay continue. Hindi pwedeng pasukin at kunin ang mga laman ng bahay. These are all private properties,” she pointed out, adding that the imposition of martial law did not remove their rights.
She said: “Hindi kami nagtuturo kung sino but sino ba ang may access ngayon sa mga bahay?”
She also told Davao Today of cases of evacuees who lost their sanity due to difficult situation – a case of death due to loss of sanity was also documented, she added.
“Ito ba ang nais natin, na makita ang ating kapwa Pilipino na nasisiraan ng bait dahil lamang sa isang man-made na disaster,” Tomawis noted.
The Filipinos, especially in Mindanao are facing a devastating reality due to martial law, and with its extension, more will suffer and die, she said. (davaotoday.com)