All our voices
Residents of Mindanao, apparently supporters of the President and his decision to put the entire island under martial law, have gone on social media to decry—or deride—expressions of concern about the situation in Marawi.
“You don’t live here, you are not from here, so you have no right to say anything,” is the gist of their tirades. While there is some validity in this point of view, it is not entirely right. True, we might not know the entirety of the situation on the ground, but last I looked, the decision to declare martial law in Mindanao was made by the national government, primarily by the President who is President of the Philippines and not just of Mindanao or Davao.
Therefore, any Filipino citizen has the right, the duty, to comment and air his or her opinion on policies and actions that the nation’s officials have adopted. Even if such a decision affects only a single barangay in a remote town and just a hundred people, any Filipino has the right to say something about it. Of course, no one knows whether the government is listening even to contrary views, would react to these observations and initiate actions to correct whatever is wrong. But officials are still, under the Constitution, answerable to the people.
Of course, the “people” in this equation really consists of their duly-elected representatives, mainly the members of the House and the Senate. But let’s not go into the craven surrender of their power to the Executive, which is a whole new other can of worms.
Of urgent and crucial concern is the situation of the people of Marawi, about 70 percent of whom, say reports, have been forced to abandon their homes and flee the city.
A friend from Cebu reports that she had just held a “tense and teary-eyed conference call” with a woman from Marawi who was caught in the crossfire.
“When the war started on (May 23) and martial law was declared,” reports my friend, “she was stranded for two days in Iligan away from her three children (ages three to seven years old). No one was allowed to enter Marawi then. She is now in the town after Iligan, but her father and sibling who opted to stay in their home in Marawi will be forced to follow her. Air strikes are frequent and the military have reminded people that those who stay in their homes during the clearing operations will be shot at.”
My friend observes that “the painful thing is aside from being internally displaced, they are also now among the homeless with no home to go back to after the war.”
The Marawi resident pleads: “Stop the air strikes,” since these have killed even the innocent, including soldiers subject to “friendly fire.” “When providing emergency relief, include those outside of evacuation centers who are sharing the homes of families in the surrounding communities,” which Muslim refugees are wont to do. Also, “clearing operations should be accompanied by Church people and civil society representatives, to protect people who stay because they have nowhere to go.” And lastly, for regulatory agencies to make sure to keep the prices of basic goods like rice and gas at levels before the fighting began.
In contrast to our legislators who chose to shirk their responsibility, one official has at least chosen to heed her conscience and take a stand.
Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, a resident of Marawi City, lawyer and human rights advocate, has resigned from her post as a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission following the siege of her hometown, Mindanews reports.
Tomawis said her resignation was “driven by the overwhelming situation” as well as by the declaration of martial law. She added that she was “turned off” by the “statement of (the President) on rape that is offensive to the Bangsamoro women.”
Mindanews says other Mindanao-based civil society groups are also calling for an end to the air strikes, and for agencies to address the needs of evacuees immediately.
These are voices from Mindanao, by the way, Christian and Muslim and lumad, all calling for the government to dial down the response to the Marawi crisis, before the fires spread to the rest of the island and the country.
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