Thousands Gather For Peace Rally In South RP

January 23, 2008 at 10:07 am | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

Demonstrators carry placards and streamers in Marawi City in southern Philippines. Muslims are opposing the presence of US soldiers in the region where a series of joint military trainings between the Philippines and the United States would begin this year. (Photos by Hannan Masdoc/CBCS)

MARAWI CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 23, 2008) – It was six thirty in the morning of Tuesday when vehicles begun to lurk the Tomawis arcade at the heart of Marawi City while men, women and children from the various mnicipalities of Lanao del Sur province groom their vehicles getting ready for the 34-km interfaith peace caravan.

Traversing the roads from Marawi City to Iligan City were vehicles swathe with red flags with the inscription “Allahu Akbar!”, which means “Allah is Great” and black banners saying “No to Balikatan in the Bangsamoro homeland!” alongside streamers “vehemently condemning the perpetrator of Fr. Roda’s mutilation”.
Teams of the US elite Special Forces will arrive and in the provinces of Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte starting Feb. 18 as part of the RP-US ‘Balanced Piston’ Balikatan exercisers, Philippine military officials told the Mindanao examiner newspaper.
The director of the Notre Dame of Tabawan and the head o Mission in Tawi-Tawi, Fr. Reynaldo A. Roda, OMI was brutally killed by unidentified armed men inside the chapel after refusing to go with the kidnappers on January 14.
The peace caravan came together with oozing spirits of frustrations from the different non-Moro civil society organizations and students standing with placards at Iligan City Plaza who assembled earlier.
Close to 10,000 people were gathered to shore up support to the continuous call for the resumption of GRP-MILF Peace talks and the sincere implementation of all the peace processes in Mindanao.
“This interfaith peace caravan-rally intends to prevent possible conflict and to show to the parties that the Bangsamoro is in solidarity with the Christians and the Lumads” Lacs Daligdig, Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) Ranaw chairman said in his opening message.

The Interfaith Peace Caravan-Rally is an off shoot of the collective efforts of the Civil Society Organizations (CSO) shown on January 9 during the second leg of the series of the peace rallies organized by the CBCS where some 20,000 from all walks of life gathered in a Peace rally in Marawi City.
“If this acts are not enough to catch the attention of the Government, the Interfaith CSOs will organize the walk for peace from Marawi City to Malacañang Palace to show to the Government that we are indeed very serious in our fervor to attain just and lasting peace in Mindanao”, Daligdig said.
The series of peace rallies spearheaded by the CBCS that kicked off in Cotabato City on January 7 followed by Marawi City on January 9, and General Santos City in January 10 gathered more than 100,000 people, Moro and Non-Moro that draw attention and various interpretations of the Media and the General Public.
“If you want war, declare at your own risk! Do not involve the people in Mindanao!,” participants shouted during the rally. This refers to the statement of Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno opposing the MILF-GRP peace process and advising the government to prepare for war should the peace talks fail.
Caricatures of Puno holding an M16 automatic rifle and US President George W. Bush were publicized by the demonstrators. Atty. Ibrahim Canama of the Federated Royal Sultanate of the Philippines stated on an appeal of the sultanates for the MILF to return to the negotiating table and for the Government to be sincere in dealing with the Peace processes, from the course of the negotiation to the implementation of the agreements to be signed.
“Our people cannot afford to live in fear,” he concluded. “We are one with the Bangsamoro in the call for lasting peace”, contented Fr. Chito Sugano of the Marawi Catholic church, “After all only those who declared war wins, we are all victims.”
“The Bangsamoro homeland, our bread and butter are happily utilized as battlegrounds, leaving its inhabitants with dime of hope”, Fr. Chito contented further. “How many more lives do we need to sacrifice?” Dared Abulkhair Alibasa, an academe youth representative.
“The consensus points were gained at the expense of the lives of the countless Bangsamoro who died fighting for it,” he said. The reneging of the Government to the agreed consensus points was vied by the academe as an “unprofessional” and is indicative of a sheer betrayal of trust.
”President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, an Iliganon, give us the justice we long for!” “We have suffered enough!” Said Bai Lilang Macarampat, a women representative of Lanao Del Sur.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s maternal parents are from Iligan City in Lanao del Norte. “We strongly condemn war, displacements and the long hardship of the Bangsamoro!” said Maria Jittel Saquilabon, the executive director of the Tri-People’s Forum.
The forum comprises huge number of tri-people organizations in Mindanao that works for human rights and peace-building. “The Bangsamoro have suffered for 469 years!” so give us back the justice that was taken from us!” said Mohammad Tamano of the Iligan League of Students in his speech.
The astonishing span of years was derived from the invasion of Spain in 1521 that lasted for 377 years and the Americans colonization period of 40 years plus the Bangsamoro homeland under the colonial Philippines for 52 years entirely because of one thing-to preserve their Islamic rights and culture.
“Give the Bangsamoro their right to self-determination!” said Cha Lavandero of Duyog Kabataan as a statement of solidarity with the Bangsamoro. “We do not want to lose our parents because of war” she emotionally stated. “What does Puno know regarding Mindanao?”
“We, the Mindanawons are to determine our own future”, she ended. “The Balikatan exercises increases rather than prevent the escalation of conflict” marked Adonna Ontillas of the Lanao Disaster Management Organization. The emergency response team appeals to the GRP not to allow the Balikatan troops to deploy in the provinces of Lanao and other adjacent areas. (Hannan Masdoc/CBCS)


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