THE debates on the possible extension of martial law in Mindanao have revealed several concerns on the ground, hours before the 60-day initial proclamation of President Rodrigo Duterte expires on Saturday, July 22.
Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, a former member of the Bangsamoro Transition Committee, spoke before the lawmakers and belied the claim of the government security officials that no abuses are recorded while martial law is in effect in Mindanao.
She said that the conditions of Muslim people in Mindanao have worsened since Duterte put the region in military rule.
"I am so sorry I have to speak for 250,000 people and 400,000 Maranaos scattered all over the country," Gutoc-Tomawis said.
"One hundred days or almost 60 days not buried. What if it was your grandfather na hindi inilibing? Sa Islam po, one day lang po, hindi pwede. Bawal sa Islam. Hindi po pwedeng iwanan na hindi buried ang katawan," she added.
Aside from that, she said that there were cases when people suspected of being part of Maute was abused by the military.
"Abdul Halim, a special child or a mental retard, 20 years old, was brought to the Ranao Rescue Team by the mother, the child was brought to the hospital, he was found in Saduc area of Marawi, he was psychologically interrogated if Maute siya. He was also, may isang baril po na inano sa kamay niya," she narrated.
Armed Forces Chief of Staff Eduardo Año said that they are willing to carry out probes in order to validate the claims of abuses.
Año also vowed to minimize the catastrophic effects of war towards the Marawi residents.
"Gagawin po namin lahat para 'di magkaroon ng inconvenience dito sa mga residente ng Marawi. But one thing we assure you that we never intend to harm or violate any human rights and, in fact, we are welcoming any complaint. We will conduct appropriate investigation and punish and apply sanctions to those who committed any violation," Año said.
Meanwhile, Commission on Human Rights Chair Chito Gascon refused to provide a categorical answer when asked if there was really no incident of abuses under Mindanao martial law.
“We do not have a categorical statement to say that there are no human rights violations because many of the people had left their homes and they had to attend first to the considerations of taking their family needs as they were displaced. But at the time that has been coming we have been receiving more and more reports,” Gascon said.
Senator Grace Poe during her interpellation with Año proposed that in the event of approving the extension of martial law, a reporting mechanism must be in place
"[A]re you amenable na magkaroon ng congressional monitoring mechanism? [N]ais nating mamintina ito so kung mayroong congressional oversight or mechanism na patuloy tayong magbibigay ng regular brief, assessment pagdating sa human rights, assessment pagdating sa sitwasyon ng mga evacuees," she said.
Año said they are willing to incorporate the suggestion of the senator. (SunStar Philippines)