‘Rape is part of culture’

“[For those] working as slaves [overseas], rape [comes with] the territory. Kasali sa kultura (It’s part of the culture).”–President Rodrigo Duterte (Masbate City/11 January 2019)

MidEast OFWs react to Duterte’s 2nd SONA

DUBAI–Filipinos in the UAE gave a mixed bag of reactions on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Manila Monday.

Some praised him for his straightforward speech while others criticized his bloody war on illegal drugs; others gave him high marks while some gave him a satisfactory grade, and yet others have raised concerns over the continuing war between government troops and Daesh-inspired Maute Group as well as the extension of martial law in Mindanao, in southern Philippines.

Solid Duterte supporters have expectedly shown their complete trust to President Duterte.

“I trust him in whatever action of government he wants to make,” Dubai resident Mosh Lafuente said. “I fully support him. His campaign on peace and order, including his war against illegal drugs, is really very tough but that is precisely what the Philippines needs,” he said.

Milo Torres added: I’m very happy to see him and hear him speaking from his heart with no hesitation to what he wanted to say. Martial law in Mindanao is really necessary and his call for the re-imposition of death penalty is the answer for those who committed heinous crimes.

“Duterte is not perfect and I give a satisfactory rating on his first year in office. He has done a good job on his war against drugs and, as a matter of fact, I never felt safer during my last vacation in our hometown,” added Darwin Grafil.

But many criticized Duterte’s martial law and the many extrajudicial killings in his year-old presidency.

“In his SONA, President Duterte said martial law is needed until the last terrorist is taken out of Mindanao,” Sahron Roy Tamano, former MarCom (Maranao Community) president, said. “But the war between government troops and Daesh-inspired Maute Group has been going on for more than two months and there is still no end in aerial bombings in Marawi and other rebel-occupied communities,” she said.

Tamano added: “I speak on behalf of Maranaos (people of Marawi) in the UAE and I can say that we are not entirely against the extension of martial law to quell the terrorists but what we are afraid of is what will happen next after this war. We are afraid that the military might abuse their authority. Some of us might be picked up on mere suspicion that we have relatives connected with the Mautes,” she said.

“Duterte has to keep his promise to end this armed conflict in Marawi soon because every day that this war is dragging on, more people – particularly the civilians – will die,” Tamano underlined.

Nhel Morona, Migrante Middle East coordinator, added: “The extension of martial law in Mindanao could lead to a military takeover of the government. Duterte is now showing that he is leaning to the Right and such move could pave the way for a possible declaration of martial law nationwide.”

“As proven in history, martial law does not bring peace and stability and can only lead to human rights violations,” he explained.

Morona also criticised Duterte for pulling the plug on the peace negotiations with the communists.

“President Duterte previously bragged that he’s a leftist president, but what happened? Peace talks are not just about the cessation of hostilities. At the negotiating table, both parties talk about the root causes of armed conflict and discuss fundamental social change. Now, the president has thrown this down the drain and he is on war footing,” Morona underlined.

On Duterte’s war on drugs, Filipino tech-entrepreneur Mannix Pabalan said: “The Duterte administration anchored its campaign to the presidency to clean up the country with illegal drugs. So far out of thousands killed already, we still have to see a drug lord get their day in justice. It is unfortunate that we still hear news that drug lords are feasting inside jail while they manufacture and operate their drug syndicates behind bars with the help of the men in uniform themselves,” Pabalan said. # (Angel L. Tesorero)

An earlier version of this report was published in The Khaleej Times (


OFWs worry about families in Mindanao evacuation camps

By Angel L. Tesorero, Khaleej Times

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates–Two months on and fighting in Marawi City in southern Philippines between government troops and a Daesh-inspired group is still ongoing. Death toll is rising and many Filipino expats are worried about their relatives staying at various evacuation camps.

Sharjah resident and former MarCom (Maranao Community) president Roy Tamano said: “The forces of Maute group have dissipated – they are now playing hide-and-seek with the government. But there are still sporadic clashes and it is still not safe for Marawi residents to return home.

“Thousands of families have been staying in different evacuation centres since the fighting erupted before the start of Ramadan on May 23. Many people have died not because they were caught in the crossfire but because of the poor condition at evacuation centres,” Tamano told Khaleej Times.

The fighting in Marawi has resulted in Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in the entire province of Mindanao to stem terrorism and restore order.

“They (Marawi evacuees) are down both physically and psychologically. The (Philippine) government’s Department of Social Welfare and Development is doing its best to help the refugees but they can only do so much as the sheer volume of needs by the evacuees is too much.”

Luckily for Tamano, his immediate relatives were the part of the first wave of evacuees and they are now safe at the homes of their relatives in nearby provinces.

“But many ran away with nothing but a few valuable possessions. Now, they only rely on the kindness of socio-civic groups and charity organisations,” Tamano said.

“The fighting has not only wrecked havoc on their livelihood but also on their morale. Maranaos (residents of Marawi) are a proud people and now they had to swallow their pride and accept ‘donations’ just to survive,” he underlined.

Tamano added that the number of casualties reported by the government is very conservative.

According to a recent report by the military, around 507 people have died – of this number, 379 were terrorists ; 89 were soldiers and 39 were civilian residents.

“Many cadavers are not yet collected,” Tamano said. “Only after the war has concluded and a thorough clearing operation is conducted can we ascertain the number of casualties,” he explained.

Even the body of the husband of Tamano’s cousin, Aleem Saipodin Gato, an Islamic preacher and former councillor of Marawi City, who is believed to have been killed by the Mautes is still not recovered.

For Hanifah Ampatuah, she is worried that her family and relatives have nothing left of their properties when they go back home.

“Our rice fields were burned and our source of income were destroyed. Even our ancestral home, which was built in the 1950s and has withstood the test of time, was razed to the ground,” she said.

“We fervently hope and pray that the fighting will stop and we can start rebuilding our beautiful Islamic City of Marawi,” she concluded.

Filipino community holds prayer for peace

Muslim and Christian Filipino expats recently held an ecumenical Prayer for Peace in Marawi at St. Francis Church in Jebel Ali. Vice-consuls Marianne Bringas and Elizabeth Ramos were present as well as some leaders of the Filipino community.

In Abu Dhabi, the Philippine Embassy collected letters of support from students and sent them to the Philippines.

“We were enjoined by the Department of Foreign Affairs to facilitate the participation of overseas Filipinos in UAE in this campaign. Of course, we are more than willing to do as our little contribution to the efforts of our brave soldiers in fighting terrorists. We hope that through these messages of support, the whole armed forces would feel that they are alone in their noble mission,” Rowena Pangilinan-Daquipil, third secretary and vice consul at the Philippine Embassy, told Khaleej Times. #