• Aid worker details rights abuses under martial law

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    AN AID worker has decried human rights violations against Marawi residents under martial law in Mindanao, including blindfolding rescued civilians, putting a special child under interrogation, and ordering evacuees to strip naked for inspection, among others.

    Samira Gutoc, who hails from Marawi City and is a Maranao, made a tearful cry for help on Saturday’s Special Joint Session of Congress that extended President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of the habeas corpus in Mindanao following the terrorist attack in Marawi City.

    “In evacuation centers, may humubad po [sa mga Muslim]for inspection. Bawal na bawal ho iyan sa Islam. Kaya nga ho kami nakaganito (hijab). Bawal ho makita ang katawan namin. Bawal makita ang suso namin, ang panty namin. Umalis kami sa bahay namin na walang panty [In evacuation centers, Muslims were told to strip for inspection. That is not allowed in Islam. That is why we wear the hijab. Our bodies cannot be seen in public. Our breasts cannot be seen, our panties. We left our homes without wearing panties],” Gutoc said.

    “Mr. [Senate] President [Aquilino Pimentel 3rd], Madam Sen. [Grace Poe], please, I am from Marawi City. Please ask us what do we feel, how do we stand up…rise from…these 60 days [of martial law],” said Gutoc, who resigned from her Bangsamoro Transition Commission post after Duterte joked that he would have the back of the soldiers in Marawi City even if they committed rape.

    Poe called in Gutoc to testify during the joint session.

    Gutoc said: “Abdul Halim, from Marawi, is a special child, and authorities poured hot water on his hand. He was also psychologically interrogated if he was a member of Maute. There were also 26 men, who were rescued by the men in uniform. When they were on the bridge [crossing to safety], they were asked to take off their t-shirts, blindfold themselves, and authorities told them, maghukay na kayo ng inyong libingan [dig your own graves].”
    Gutoc also claimed that many bodies of fallen Muslims were not buried in the last 60 days, also a grave violation of Islamic tradition.

    “Islam puts much weight on the prohibition of not burying the dead for that long. We understand that it is a matter of national security, but there’s even a baby who died in a charity ward after being injected of so many supposed medicines, and the baby’s mother didn’t even know what was being administered to her child. Every five days, sir, Senate President, Ma’am Senator, our rescue volunteers bury a baby,” Gutoc said.

    Military willing to accept sanctions

    In reaction, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Eduardo Año said martial law was not imposed to
    suppress the rights of people but to eradicate rebellion.

    Año said even terrorists from the Maute group who were Muslims were given Islamic burial rites.

    “We are doing everything we can to resolve this at the soonest possible time and not to cause inconvenience to the people of Mindanao. We do not intend to violate human rights, and we welcome any investigation and will apply sanctions if there are any violations,” Año told lawmakers.

    Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea echoed Año, citing that President Duterte’s Proclamation 216 states that the 1987 Constitution should be followed to the letter by ensuring the continued protection of the safety and welfare of displaced persons.

    Commission on Human Rights chief Chito Gascon also testified that his office had yet to receive reports of human rights violations committed under martial law in Mindanao.

    Gascon, however, clarified that he did not have enough information to conclude that there were no human rights violations under martial law in the south.

    Lawmaker: No to IDs for Muslims

    A Muslim lawmaker called on Congress to fight discrimination against Muslims amid the ongoing government military operation against extremists in Marawi City.

    “This is a fight against extremism. We Muslims do not support these extremists. That is why we are calling on all of you, including those in the Visayas, please, don’t ask for our (Muslims’) IDs,” said Rep. Bai Sandra Sema of Maguindanao and Cotabato City during the joint session.

    Sema cited the proposal of Central Luzon Police Supt. Aaron Aquino to require Muslims to wear IDs to “identify and weed out undesirable individuals and terrorists.”

    “By resorting to this ID system, we are making extremists win. We should not let these extremists ruin Mindanao, and so members of Congress, please echo our call to local officials not to give these extremists the opportunity to malign the Muslims,” Sema added.

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