MANILA - Opposition slate Otso Diretso’s lone female and Muslim candidate Samira Gutoc on Wednesday said she is confident Moros would rally behind her despite the strong influence of President Rodrigo Duterte on Mindanaoans.
Gutoc, a former assemblywoman and a Marawi City civic leader, is running under the opposition banner against several other senatorial candidates endorsed by the country’s first president from Mindanao.
She kicks off her campaign with the opposition slate on the heels of the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), a measure that would establish a new Bangsamoro region with greater self-governance powers.
The recent ratification of the law following plebiscites in Mindanao is seen as a Duterte victory as it would enforce the 2014 peace deal forged by the national government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), formerly a secessionist group.
“The BOL is 17 years in the making so President Duterte was lucky that it was passed this year,” Gutoc told reporters on the sidelines of a prayer rally in Caloocan City.
“President Duterte is instrumental in having signed the [Bangsamoro Organic] law, but Marawi siege was also under him as well as martial law. That never happened [in Mindanao] in the past 40 years, she said.
Gutoc was among tens of thousands who lost their homes in Marawi City in a terrorist-led siege the wrought havoc on the once bustling urban and cultural center for five months in 2017.
Firefights between state troops and the terrorists prompted the declaration of martial in all of Mindanao, which has been extended many times and will remain in effect until the end of the year.
"How are they? Return to normalcy is far from normal,” she said, in reference to those displaced by the conflict.
“Wala pa rin pong normalcy ang (There is still no normalcy for) 20,000 outside of the war zone,” she said, underscoring a supposed dissatisfaction among residents due to the slow rehabilitation of Marawi city.
Muslims know how to look “beyond political colors,” the Moro leader said.
“They would know that it is beyond colors, beyond bashing of the trolls. It’s beyond the "yellowtard" (followers of the opposition) versus the DDS (followers of the administration). It is really about the presyo ng mga bilihin, kapayapaan laban sa karahasan (prices of goods, peace against violence),” she said.