Marawi resident claiming martial law abuses 'a voice in the wilderness' – Alvarez
MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez belittled the speech of a Marawi aide worker who told lawmakers that government troops are committing human rights abuses in Mindanao under martial rule.
Alvarez downplayed the claim on Monday, July 24, when asked about the impassioned appeal of former Bangsamoro Transition Commission member Samira Gutoc-Tomawis at the special session of Congress on Saturday, where she bared alleged martial law abuses and the plight of Marawi residents. (READ: Marawi resident makes emotional plea vs martial law abuses)
Tomawis was emotional as she recounted stories of violent interrogations, unburied bodies, and a Muslim woman who stripped off her clothes in an evacuation center in Iligan City after suffering a mental breakdown.
“Isang boses lang ‘yun (That’s just one voice). I think that was a voice in the wilderness,” said Alvarez, who represents the 1st District of Davao del Norte.
He questioned why the House is being burdened with reports of alleged human rights violations by the military, saying this is the job of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
“Alam mo, maraming allegations ng human rights abuses. Pero nasaan? Andiyan ‘yung CHR o. I-file nila ‘yan sa Commission on Human Rights. Bakit sa amin?” said a visibly peeved Alvarez.
(You know, there are many allegations of human rights abuses. But where is it happening? The CHR is there. Let them file a complaint at the Commission on Human Rights. Why tell us about it?)
He then challenged the critics of martial law to conduct a survey in Mindanao to determine the true sentiments of the residents there.
“Pumunta tayo sa Mindanao. Mag-survey tayo. Tignan natin ‘yung pulso ng karamihan. Buong Mindanao, ha! I challenge everyone to conduct a survey. Kung kami ay representative, kami sa district ko, I can assure you, pinakamababa diyan [sa mga maga-agree sa martial law extension ay] 90%,” he said.
(Let’s go to Mindanao. Let’s conduct a survey. Let’s determine the pulse of the majority. Do it in the whole of Mindanao! I challenge everyone to conduct a survey. In my district, I can assure, the lowest percentage of people who will agree with the martial law extension is around 90%.)
Tomawis was the not the only one, and not the first, to speak out about alleged human rights violations in Marawi.
On June 9, or just over two weeks after martial law was declared in Mindanao, lawyers in Lanao del Sur wrote an open letter to President Rodrigo Duterte to express "severe outrage" over alleged martial law abuses in Marawi, and demanded swift government response to what they called "unspeakable acts of bestiality."
On Saturday, July 22, Congress in a joint vote of 261-18-0 favored Duterte’s request to extend martial law in Mindanao until December 31 of this year. Proclamation No. 216 declaring martial law in the region was supposed to lapse on JUly 22. – Rappler.com