Maranao leader seeks to take minority groups’ concerns to Senate

October 12, 2018 - 1:50 PM
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Samira Gutoc-Tomawis
Maranao leader Samira Gutoc-Tomawis files her certificate of candidacy on October 11. (Philstar.com/Kat Leandicho)

Maranao leader Samira Gutoc-Tomawis will propose a law for the protection of women, specifically those from indigenous groups, should she become senator after the mid-term polls next year.

Gutoc-Tomawis, a former member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, filed her certificate of candidacy on October 11, the first day of the filing period at the Comelec main office in Intramuros.

She quit from the BTC following President Rodrigo Duterte’s rape jokes and declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

She said that once in the Senate, she would push for legislation that will protect women and members of the indigenous groups.

“Tayo ay isang babaeng naninidigan. So ang aking legislation ay protecting women protecting minorities, iyong mga indigenous peoples,” Gutoc-Tomawis said in an interview.

She is also batting for the fast tracking of the rehabilitation of Marawi in Mindanao, which gathered criticisms over uncertain and sketchy plans of the project.

She also advocates for anti-discrimination and protection of the ecosystem.

For the Marawi resident, this is the right time to run with the opposition Liberal Party.

“We oppose killings, extra-judicial killings. I oppose Mindanao violence. I oppose martial law abuses. It is the best time para sa isang babae sa opposition para manindigan,” she said.

From Duterte supporter to critic

In February 2017, Gutoc-Tomawis was among the 21 members chosen of the new BTC that will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

When war broke out in her hometown of Marawi on May 23, the president was quick to declare martial law in the whole Mindanao.

In a pep talk with soldiers that same month, Duterte made a remark that he will take responsibility for soldiers who would be accused of raping three people under martial law.

Days later, Gutoc-Tomawis offered her resignation from the committee due to “personal reasons,” but some reports say that the rape joke against Mindanao residents prompted her to quit.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law was eventually signed into law on May 30, 2018.

Soon after, she became vocal against human rights abuses and other controversial policies of the administration.

Gutoc-Tomawis’ name appeared in the lineup of LP senatorial candidates released in September.

Protection for IPs and other minorities

Months after she resigned from the BTC, she became the spokesperson of the Ranao Rescue Team, the group in-charge of rescuing civilians from the five months-long Marawi siege.

In July, Gutoc-Tomawis shared accounts of human rights violations in Mindanao at a session of Congress, citing alleged taboo acts that soldiers forced Muslims into committing.

These abuses include the alleged psychological interrogation of a 20-year-old with a developmental disorder. Another was when a Muslim woman who was psychologically troubled took off of her clothes in a crowded evacuation center. It was considered unethical to undress in front of men she’s not related to.

She also added that her people were not able to bury the dead for days when it is a sacred practice in Islam to bury the deceased within 24 hours.

“I am from Marawi City, your honors, please ask us what do we feel? Please ask us how do we stand up and arise?” the civic leader said.

The urban battle in Marawi between government forces and the terrorist Maute coalition displaced around 78,466 families.

Rights group Karapatan recorded at least 49 victims of extrajudicial killings in Mindanao in a report it submitted for review to the United Nations.

There were at least 22 cases of torture, 116 victims of attempted extrajudicial killings, 89 illegal detainees and 336,124 victims of gunfire and bomb attacks.

Martial law in Mindanao is supposed to be lifted on December 31 this year. Congress granted extension to martial rule in Mindanao twice upon request of the president.