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De Lima asks gov’t: Invite UN agent to see Marawi evacuees’ situation

Senator Leila De Lima has filed a resolution urging the government to invite United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons Cecilia Jimenez-Damary to evaluate the situation of displaced residents in strife-torn Marawi City. 

In Senate Resolution No. 445, De Lima asked the Department of Foreign Affairs to send a formal invitation to Jimenez-Damary to visit the Philippines and take a look at the Marawi evacuees' situation, which she said could worsen due to the extension of martial law in Mindanao until the end of the year.

“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 [evacuees] within and outside evacuation camps,” De Lima said in a statement on Sunday.

Citing data from the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Zamboanga, De Lima said a total of 351,168 individuals have already been displaced in Marawi City as of June 2017. 17,389 of them are currently seeking shelter in evacuation centers.

De Lima took note of the revelations of Ranao rescue team member Samira Gutoc-Tomawis during the Congress special joint session on July 22 to discuss Mindanao martial law extension.

"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 police for questioning for a whole day because they were found holding dextrose intravenous drips,” she said.

Jimenez-Damary's visit, the senator said, would give not only insights on the matter but also help in finding legislative remedy to address the humanitarian crisis in the region.

“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,” De Lima said. —Erwin Sanchez Colcol/LBG, GMA News