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A joke that nobody finds funny

As this is being written, the joint session of Congress to determine the need for extending martial law to the end of the year is still ongoing.

With about an hour to go, it seems likely that the two chambers will grant President Duterte’s requested extension.

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Members of the opposition, both in the Senate and the House, have brought up many objections: the possibility of human rights abuses reminiscent of the rash of violations that took place during the Marcos martial law years; the abject conditions of Marawi residents who are still afraid to return to their abandoned homes while military rule prevails in the area; and the declarations made by military and defense officials, as well as the President, that the crisis should be resolved within 15 days.

But these objections have been brushed aside by other legislators who support the extension of martial law, citing the ongoing fighting between government troops and other armed groups in other parts of Mindanao.

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Was there any doubt that Congress would ignore the President’s desire to extend martial law? After all, the legislature has proven to be eager to comply with Malacañang’s wishes even before the declaration of martial law in Mindanao. (Congress did not even wish to vote on the wisdom of the declaration itself.) But hope springs eternal, despite previous experience, and despite one’s skepticism about the real nature of our legislators. The third branch of government, symbolized by the Supreme Court, seems the only institution standing in the way of the martial law juggernaut. But we’re not holding our breath for a sudden upsurge of courage from our magistrates, are we?

About halfway through the testimonies, I spotted this FB post from Carol Arguillas, editor of the news site MindaNews. “Where are the Moro reps?” she asked. “Si Samira pa lang ang boses ng Moro sa Kongreso (It’s only Samira who’s been the voice of the Moro in Congress)!”

Carol was referring to Samira Gutoc Tomawis, who had resigned from the Bangsamoro Transition Commission in the wake of the President’s crass remarks about giving soldiers fighting in Marawi permission to rape up to two women in the course of battle. Samira addressed the body to air her concern about the welfare of the Marawi residents, especially the women and children, whose lives have been upended by the fighting in the city and the massive destruction that has taken place.

In reaction, a netizen seconded Arguillas’ observation, saying: “It has become a joke—this pretense at being defenders, representatives, protectors, spokespersons of the Moro people. And I refer not just to the elected legislators and local government representatives. I refer to those in the executive branch—local, regional and national. And I refer not just to those in the government either. Akala ko pa naman matatapang kapwa ko Moro (And I thought my fellow Moros were brave).”

Well, be careful what you wish for.

In time, Moro representatives did rise to speak on the issue of extending martial law in Mindanao.

Rep. Bai Sandra Sema of the first district of Maguindanao expressed that she was in favor of the extension since “this is a fight against extremism.” But she also exhorted authorities to drop the idea of issuing identification cards to Muslim Filipinos, saying this would only antagonize Moros and “give support to the extremists.”

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Rep. Sajid Mangudadatu of Maguindanao likewise supported the President’s move. So did the representatives of districts in the area surrounding Marawi—Mauyag Papandayan Jr. and Ansaruddin Adiong, both  of Lanao del Sur—as well as Datu Abul Khayr Alonto who chairs the Mindanao Development Authority.

Instructive, isn’t it, how the representatives of the besieged city of Marawi and adjacent areas, who should know most intimately the status of the people affected by the fighting and how they will fare while martial law looms over their island, chose to look away and buckled under the pressure of the power-that-is.

If indeed this is, according to the netizen, a “joke,” nobody’s laughing.

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TAGS: At Large, Duterte's rape jokes, Marawi siege, Mindanao martial law, Rina Jimenez-David, Rodrigo Duterte
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