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Lawmaker says soldiers threatened to rape women in Marawi; but defense chief twits report as 'fake news'

A militant lawmaker said soldiers had threatened to rape women from Marawi City following the assurance of President Rodrigo Duterte that he will own the responsibility if they raped women.

Gabriela Women's Party Rep. Arlene Brosas said she "personally heard" women telling these stories in evacuation centers.

"I have personally heard the stories of women who sought refuge in evacuation centers in Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur after government troops threatened to rape them, as encouraged by no less than President Duterte in his public remarks," Brosas said in a forum in Quezon City on Friday, June 23.

Brosas said the stories of women proved martial law, which was declared on May 23, and Duterte's rape remarks "emboldened the military to dangle rape threats against women."

She said they fear there are actual victims of rape and they are encouraging women to speak out and seek justice.

"On top of its rights violations with the non-stop aerial bombardment of Marawi, the military is using rape threats as tool of war, coercion and harassment against women. Any sign of safety is elusive for the women particularly in Marawi City with armed men still on the loose and with soldiers eager to rape them," she said.

Brosas visited the evacuation centers in Iligan city as part of the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission conducted last June 14-15. The mission team, along with another lawmaker, Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate was was denied entry to Marawi City.

'Fake news'

However, Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana denied the reports calling it as "fake news" and hearsays spread by leftist organizations.

"I question the motives and credibility of certain leftist groups and inviduals in coming up with a dubious report that Marawi women residents allegedly fear that they will be raped by soldiers in the ongoing military operations in Marawi City," Lorenzana said in a statement on Monday, June 26.

He said the leftist groups who made the report only want the government to fail in the fight against terror.

Lorenzana said the soldiers have gone through gender sensitivity trainings. He said the soldiers and the police are in Marawi to fight terrorists.

"To this day, close to 70 soldiers and policemen have already paid the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of Marawi City and our people, with many more wounded and in need of serious medical attention," he added.

He also challenged the organizations to present evidence and file a complaint before authorities.

"Mas mainam siguro na buksan nila ang kanilang isip at puso sa totoong nangyayari at huwag magpakawala ng mga tsismis at fake news (It's better for the to open their minds and hearts to what is truly happening than spreading hearsays and fake news)," he said.

Congressional inquiry

Brosas said they already filed House Resolution 1085 along with the members of Makabayan bloc in Congress. The resolution directs the House Committee on Human Rights to investigate the plight of displaced civilians in Marawi City and to look into the rights violations committed by the military.

"We reiterate our call to President Duterte to stop the military's aerial bombardment of communities, stop tinkering with the plan to carpet-bomb Marawi, lift the martial law declaration, and exact accountability over the massive humanitarian crisis in Mindanao," she said.

Not a joke

During his speech at the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade in Iligan City on May 26, Duterte told the government troops not to worry as he will claim full responsibility on the consequences of Martial Law.

"If you go down, I go down. But for this martial law and the consequences of martial law and the ramifications of martial law, I and I alone would be responsible, trabaho lang kayo. Ako ng bahala (Just do your job. I will have your back)," he said.

Duterte added he will imprisoned the soldiers himself. He said: "Ako na ang magpakulong sa inyo. Pag naka-rape ka ng tatlo, aminin ko na akin 'yun."

But on May 31, during his speech at the 119th Philippine Navy anniversary in Sasa Wharf here, Duterte said his statements were sarcastic remarks.

He clarified that he wa warning the soldiers that anything they do, he will be accountable.

"I'm just warning them that anything they do, I have to answer for it. But I take full responsibility for your kagaguhan. Sarcastic ako magsalita (But I take full responsibility for your mistake. I talk sarcastically)," he said.

[Source: By Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano, Davao Today, Davao City, 26Jun17]

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small logoThis document has been published on 27Jun17 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.