DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A Maranao woman leader said the decision to extend martial law in Mindanao spells nightmare for the residents of Marawi City, the Philippines only Islamic city where government troops continue to fight with extremists running for 57 days.
President Rodrigo Duterte has requested Congress to decide on the extension of Martial Law until the end of the year. Martial Law in Mindanao was originally set for a period of 60 days.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Duterte has called for a special session for Congress to deliberate and consider the possible extension of Proclamation Number 216.
A portion of Duterte’s letter to the Senate and the House of Representatives read by Abella to reporters in Malacañan on Tuesday reads: “Gentlemen, upon a thorough personal assessment of the current situation in Marawi City and other parts of Mindanao, and taking into account the reports and recommendations of the Secretary of National Defense as Martial Law Administrator; the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as Martial Law Implementor; and the Chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), I have come to the conclusion that the existing rebellion in Mindanao which has prompted me to issue Proclamation Number 216 on 23rd May 2017 will not be quelled completely by 22nd July 2017, the last day of the 60-day period provided under Section 18, Article 7 of the 1987 Constitution. For this reason, then because public safety requires it, I call upon the Congress to extend until 31st of December 2017, or for such a period of time as the Congress may determine the proclamation of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao.”
Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, a former Bangsamoro Transition Commissioner who was appointed by Duterte, said Martial Law are already affecting hundreds of thousands of civilians, mostly women and children.
As of July 17, the Autonomous Region in Mindanao Crisis Committee has already recorded 465,692 internally displaced persons who are house-based and those who are staying in evacuation centers due to the conflict.
“We see all forms of and high numbers of all AFP forces, it’s a nightmare. And for us living in this modern age to have experienced seeing all men in all forms of uniform is very, very, shocking,” Gutoc-Tomawis, a former assemblywoman of the Regional Legislative Assembly of the ARMM, told Davao Today in an interview on Tuesday.
She said compared to the Martial Law declared by former President Ferdinand Marcos in 1972, “this is the Martial Law that has used all forms of strikes on the Islamic capital of the country which is Marawi.”
“It’s a very dangerous time for us Marawi residents, actually the worst moment for us, not only depressing, (this is the) worst moment for the Bangsamoro history,” she added.
Gutoc-Tomawis is one of the organizers of the a group responding to the Marawi crisis, the Ranao Rescue Team. She said most of the medical conditions of evacuees they are dealing with is the high cases of hypertension and urinary tract infection.
“We are looking at hundreds of cases of hypertension and UTI. That’s the major medical condition of evacuees. This is the result of nervousness and tension from the Martial Law experience,” she said.
The Department of Health has reported 40 deaths among civilians due to various diseases displaced by the fighting in Marawi as of Sunday, July 16.
Prolonging the agony
Drieza Lininding, chairperson of the Moro Consensus Group a Maranao and a resident of Barangay Marinaut in Marawi City, also said the plan to extend Martial Law was “not well-thought of.”
Lininding told Davao Today that extending Martial Law is “extending the agony of almost half a million of displaced residents.”
Instead of extending martial law, Lininding said the government should involve Maranao religious and traditional leaders in addressing the crisis.
“Kailangan ngayon ng cooperation ng lahat. Lahat ng Maranao ngayon ay gusto nang tapusin yung gulo pero hindi naman sila tinatanong kung anong maitutulong nila at kung anong gusto nila (We all need the cooperation of everybody. All Maranaos want the fighting to end, but nobody is asking them how they can help and what they want),” he said.
Lininding said they will be holding dialogues and meetings to come up with a proposal to the president.
He said they hope Duterte will change his mind and lift the Martial Law when he delivers his second SONA on July 24.
Meanwhile, Zia Alonto Adiong of the Lanao del Sur Provincial Crisis Committee said the extension of Martial Law is the president’s prerogative He said they will respect the President’s decision.
However, in a telephone interview Adiong told Davao Today said they hope the government will also be prepared to address the humanitarian aspect of the
“We also need to look at the crisis not only on the military aspect, but as well as the humanitarian component of the crisis,” Adiong said.
He said the people’s concern is not much on the extension of Martial Law but on how the government would respond to the increasing needs of the IDPs.
He said the government should also intensify the support of the government to the IDPs. He also said they are still awaiting a response from the Inter-agency Joint Task Force Bangon Marawi to make them a member of the task force.
“We are still hoping that we can get a member status in the task force because our participation is very limited to assisting them. We want to be involved in the decision-making process,” Adiong said, adding that the local chief executives are the representatives of the people who are affected by the crisis.(davaotoday.com)