Mindanao to Malacanang peace caravan on

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Friday, October 12, 2012

PEACE advocates from Muslim, Christian, and highland communities have joined a nationwide caravan from Mindanao to Malacanang to show their support for the signing of the framework agreement between the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Monday afternoon in Malacanang.

The peace caravan dubbed as “Lakbay Kalinaw (Caravan for Peace) from Mindanao to Malacanang” started in Cotabato, Marawi, Maguindanao and Davao City Friday morning and is expected to converge at the foot of Don Chino Roces Bridge (formerly Mendiola) near Malacanang on Sunday afternoon where a peace concert is slated to be held.

The group is set to travel overland to Manila, via the Maharlika route, which straddles through provinces in Northern Mindanao, on to Visayas and Luzon, via ferry linkages.

Lakbay Kalinaw coordinator Pendatun Disimban said the peace advocates will hold a vigil at the Chino Roces Bridge on Saturday night until the peace agreement is signed by the government and MILF panels in the presence of President Benigno Aquino III, Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohammad Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak, MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, and other foreign and local officials on Sunday.

“We will not leave until the framework agreement is signed,” said Disimban, adding the caravan was organized to “show our jubilation and optimism that a lasting and permanent peace will now dawn in Mindanao.”

Lawyer Mary Ann Arnado, secretary general of the Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC), said the holding of the peace caravan was a spontaneous reaction from residents in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) and its nearby provinces following the announcement made by President Aquino last week about the breakthrough in the GHP-MILF peace talks.

“The signing of the framework agreement is really a historic event for us here in Mindanao,” Arnado said. “Mindanaoans, especially those from conflict-affected areas, are very happy with this momentous event. More than 10 years na kasi itong hinihintay, kaya people are going out of their houses to celebrate.”

Arnado said more people wanted to participate in the peace caravan and witness the peace agreement in Malacanang but were prevented to do so due to “lack of resources.”

In an advisory sent to media organizations nationwide, MPC's liaison officer Mariel Andrea Gardiola said Muslims, Christian and other faiths and tribal leaders in Mindanao, both young and old “will take this long journey to convey to the world that we are a big part of this historic event.”

“With much anticipation, great relief and all-out support for the signing of the GPH-MILF framework agreement, grassroots leaders from Muslim, Christian, and Indigenous communities in Mindanao will kick off today the Lakbay Kalinaw Caravan from Mindanao to Malacanang in order to witness the signing,” Gardiola said.

“We travel by land and sea and spend long days and nights of travel to show our deep gratitude and thanksgiving that we have finally reached the light at the end of the long dark tunnel. We represent the hopes and dreams of the civilians in the conflict-affected areas who have never expected this victory for peace could still happen in this generation,” Gardiola added. “It is only through God's wisdom and boundless generosity that we are given this opportunity to reconcile as brothers and sisters. This is a legacy President Aquino has finally fulfilled.”

Along the way, Disimban said the caravan participants intended to explain “to the people in Visayas and Luzon that this peace agreement will not only benefit the people of Mindanao but the entire country as well.”

Disimban, who is an Armm Department of Agriculture assistant secretary, said the organizers of the peace caravan will hold a press conference in Cagayan de Oro on Friday afternoon. (PR)

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