De Lima wants UN to look into plight of displaced Marawi residents
Senator Leila de Lima on Sunday filed a resolution urging the government to invite United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Cecilia Jimenez-Damary to look into the growing number of citizens displaced by the crisis in Marawi City.
De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 455, saying that the “plight of displaced people in the province could continue and even worsen” due to the extension of martial law in Mindanao until December 31 this year.
De Lima filed the resolution from her cell at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center where she is detained on drug charges.
“In light of the extension of the effectivity of Martial Law in Mindanao and the worrisome conditions already reported to be prevailing in the affected areas, it is imperative for the Executive Department to invite Jimenez-Damary, to enable her to verify these troubling complaints, assess the actual living conditions of the IDPs within and outside evacuation camps, and to propose recommendations on how to improve such conditions going forward,” said de Lima.
The senator cited figures released by the Zamboanga Department of Social Welfare and Development since the proclamation of martial law on May 23, and as of June 2017, which showed 351,168 displaced individuals in Marawi City, 17,389 of which are staying in evacuation centers.
“Aside from the difficult living conditions, the affected families and communities are reportedly facing unjust treatments from local authorities, with the military officials allegedly refusing the passage of relief goods in the province, conducting indiscriminate airstrikes, disrespecting the Islamic faith and harassing women by telling inappropriate rape jokes,” De Lima said.
The former Commission on Human Rights chair pointed out how Ranao rescue team member Samira Gutoc-Tomawis revealed the difficult living condition of IDPs in Marawi City during the special joint session of Congress for the extension of martial law in Mindanao on July 22.
“Among the disturbing conditions mentioned by Ms. Gutoc-Tomawis is the situation of mothers and their children in Marawi, such as the cases of three women sharing one bed in a charity ward, dead babies being buried every five days, men rescued by authorities are being asked to remove their clothes then walk while blindfolded, and of two pregnant women who were taken by the PNP for questioning for a whole day because they were found holding dextrose intravenous drips,” de Lima said.
The Senator said that the government, as “legal protector of Filipinos who are unable to protect themselves,” has the duty to pursue an impartial investigation through an independent commission of inquiry to be conducted by the UN Special Rapporteur.
“The government, under the doctrine of ‘parens patriae,’ should always prioritize and address the situation of the displaced citizens in Mindanao — particularly, the surfacing humanitarian issues emerging from the intensified armed conflict between the military and of terrorist elements,” she said.
The former Justice secretary said the visit of Jimenez-Damary would not only provide insights on the issues, but also “aid in finding remedial legislative measures that could help address the growing humanitarian crisis in Mindanao.”
One of the functions of the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs, according to de Lima, is to conduct country visits, which provide an opportunity to assess and check whether the needs of the internally displaced are being met with urgency. CBB
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