Key witness in MSU-Marawi fire dies

MANILA, Philippines - The lone witness who was willing to testify about the October 25 murder and arson incident in Mindanao State University's (MSU) main campus in Marawi City failed to survive.  

Estrella Diaz, 14, passed away on Saturday, November 17, at 10 am due to multiple complications in her lungs and her second-degree burns.

There was no burn unit in Northern Mindanao that could isolate her from infection, said Assemblywoman Samira Gutoc-Tomawis. 

Diaz was the only witness who provided the police a testimony about the incident that claimed the life of her brother, Erwin, and Philosophy professor Othello Cobal. But authorities said she was not going to be a key witness because she could not remember the suspects' faces. 

There are other witnesses but they have refused to come out. 

On November 9, the Regional Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao adopted a resolution to declare MSU as a Zone of Peace, a concept that already exists in Mindanao wherein arms and goons cannot enter communities.

Tomawis said she is upset that while the nation is focused on creating a Bangsamoro region, it is unable to defend the innocent. 

"We want a Bangsamoro region but we can't take care of a non-Bangsamoro in our own place," she said. 

On her Facebook page, Tomawis wrote an appeal for all sectors of the community to take action. Part of it read: 

"We appeal to the MILF and ulama to help in the anti-criminality campaign. We appeal to Marawi, Lanao, barangay LGUs to reach out beyond their offices to walk the streets in a show of unity. There is no turfing when it comes to protecting the innocent. The wars now are wars against the inhumane. There is no Marawi, Lanao or MSU jurisdiction in the murder of one. It is everyone's jurisdiction. For if we have MARATABAT/HONOR to defend our own blood, the more we should have RAGE to defend those without families to defend them, the Christians (the vendors, the orphans, the weak) who entrusted themselves to study and live here in our homeland." -