MANILA - Residents of Lanao del Sur have fled to different towns outside the province fearing martial law, according to the regional vice governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
ARMM Regional Vice Governor Haroun Alrashid Alonto Lucman Jr., a Maranao himself, said his fellow Lanao natives "fear and abhor" martial law because of what they had suffered under the Marcos regime.
"Martial Law to us is repressive, abusive, and dehumanizing. That is the Martial law that we suffered during the Marcos rule. Our people fear it and abhor it," he said in a speech he was supposed to read during the Congress' special joint session last Saturday.
The unread speech was posted instead on Facebook by his daughter, Harissa. She said their relatives and friends who wanted to know what it is all about requested for her to post it.
In the speech, Lucman said residents fleeing to other towns is one of the reasons why the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has ballooned to 527,000 -- more than double the 207,000 total population of Marawi City.
"The reason is that even those in the municipalities of the province have fled to other areas outside of Lanao. Some for economic reason, but many because of fear of Martial Law," he claims.
Congress in a joint special session, voting 261-18, approved President Rodrigo Duterte's request to extend martial law in Mindanao until December 31.
The ARMM official said he himself has no problem with martial law because he knows his rights but the fear it sows upon the residents should also be considered by the officials.
"I have no problem with Martial Law. I know my rights under its rule. But our people fled as far away as they can and scattered in many places because they fear Martial Law," he said.
Lucman believes the terrorists can be dealt with without martial law, as the Maute group, according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, have substantially weakened
He added that military officials leading the state troops are doing well in confronting the Maute forces.
Meanwhile, Lucman also expressed alarm over reports that Muslim boys in Quiapo without IDs were being rounded up and questioned by members of the Manila police.
"It's hard enough being an IDP. It's doubly hard living in a place not your own and suspected of being a terrorist," the Maranao added.
Lucman clarified that the ARMM government supports the military campaign against the Maute terrorists, and that they want these elements neutralized.
"We must not allow them to regroup and sow terror in our lands. ISIS is against humanity as a whole and humanity must unite in fighting them," he stressed.
Lucman concluded the unread speech, saying: "Whatever your decision here, please feel our people's sentiments. We want to go home. Lanao is the only place we want to be. Please bring us back home."
Asked why he was not able to deliver the speech, Lucman said officers in the Congress told him only officials from the security sector were allowed to speak.
"Medialdea, Esperon, Lorenzana, Año, Aguirre were all there in front of me where I sat down so I did not insist na kasi madaming tao at cabinet officials na katabi ko," he told ABS-CBN News through his daughter, Harissa.
Lucman has been staying in Lanao del Sur closely monitoring developments in Marawi City since Day 1 of the siege. He said he wrote the speech as a Maranao and for his fellow who are affected by the conflict.
His daughter, Harissa, is hoping the speech of her father would give Maranaos hope.
During the Congress special session, only Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, a former member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, was able to speak in behalf of the Maranaos.
ABS-CBN News, meanwhile, tried to reach House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez through text, but there has been no response yet as of posting.