Investigative Diaries of Mindanao
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." --Winston Churchill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Lara Tan CNN Philippines, July 22, 2017
Metro Manila. A Maranao rescue worker became emotional on Saturday as she recalled cases of human rights violations against Marawi evacuees supposedly committed by government troops.
During the joint session of Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao, Samira Gutoc-Tomawis recalled stories of evacuees who claimed they were tortured, psychologically interrogated, and stripped in evacuation centers.
Gutoc, Ranao Rescue Team Convenor, shared how a mother brought to their team her 20-year-old autistic child, who was allegedly tortured and "psychologically" interrogated if he was a member of ISIS-linked Maute.
"The child was brought to the hospital because the mother claims the child, hinulugan po ng mainit na tubig ang kaniyang kamay after being found in Saduc area sa Marawi. He was psychologically interrogated if Maute siya. May isang baril din daw po na (hit with the gun) sa kamay niya," he said.
Gutoc, a former member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, recalled how Islam women were supposedly made to strip in evacuation centers.
"Women are — every second — merong humubad sa evacuation center. In Islam, bawal po maghubad, kaya po kami naka-ganito, naka-cover ang face ng ilan. Bawal po makita ang katawan namin," she said.
Exposing intimate body parts is considered a sin in Islam.
Gutoc also shared a story of a rescued man who was allegedly threatened by an official.
"Mr. Pundag, among 26 men, he upon being rescued by men in uniform, they were asked to remove their t-shirts, blindfold themselves, and walk blindfolded. May narinig silang mga baril. Isang sinabi ng boses ng isang authority, 'Maghukay na kayo ng inyong libingan,'" she said.
Speaking before lawmakers and top military and security officials, with her voice cracking, she appealed to the government to listen to the plight of internally displaced persons from Marawi.
'More and more' reports of violations received - CHR
Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Chito Gascon said they are receiving "more and more reports of possible human rights violations" in Mindanao, despite earlier statements of no reported violations arising from the martial law.
"We have been receiving some reports that we are now validating from the victims in the evacuation areas, as well as in the other parts of Mindanao. CHR is still in the middle of receiving reports and conducting its own investigation," he said.
Gascon said the human rights division of the Armed Forces should issue regular human rights reports, which would then be validated by the CHR.
AFP: Human rights violators will be sanctioned
Also during the session, military officials said soldiers will be punished if proven they violated the rights of Marawi evacuees.
AFP Chief and martial law implementor Gen. Eduardo Año encouraged those who WERE mistreated by government troops in Mindanao to file complaints.
"One thing we will assure you, we never intend to harm or violate any human right. In fact we are welcoming any complaint. We will conduct an investigation and punish, apply sanctions to those who committed any violation," he said.
Defense Secretary and martial law implementor said the military has a strict protocol against committing human rights violations.