THE Cagayan de Oro City Police Office (Cocpo) is launching another non-partisan solidarity walk for peace and covenant signing on March 16, barely two weeks before the local campaign starts, but candidates will not be recognized nor be allowed to speak.
Various government agencies, religious sectors, academe, poll watchdog such as the National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) and Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting and other stakeholders are taking part of the activity.
“There will be no politicians allowed to talk, they will not be even mentioned or recognized (when they attend) to that it would be fair to all,” Namfrel local chapter chair Nestor Banuag said.
However, candidates are urged to join the activity as organizers will send official invitation.
Unlike the peace covenant signing previously conducted during the kick-off of the election period wherein Mayor Oscar Moreno delivered the welcome remarks, this time the police will welcome the participants to be followed by messages from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and other resource persons.
Cocpo spokesperson Superintendent Mardy Hortillosa II said around 300 police will be deployed to ensure security of the activity.
Hortillosa also said organizers will strictly monitor that no politicians or their supporters will take advantage of the activity to campaign.
Candidates may wear their party-color shirts to identify themselves but it should not have markings blatantly soliciting votes. Other groups who wish to participate may wear white t-shirt.
Also, campaign materials such as posters, flyers and the likes are not allowed.
“Campaigning is not allowed (yet). They can wear any shirt but they should not put ‘vote’ because the Comelec is there and we will call their attention because they must be warned,” Banuag said, reminding everyone that the official campaign for local politicians will start on March 30.
Supporters are also reminded not to be unruly.
Bishop Jose Roy Rodriguez, president of the United Christian Churches of Mindanao, also said they will assure that the activity will not be used by any candidate or politicians to advance their political agenda.
“We will work on it, with the help of God, that only organizers and resource speakers are only allowed to speak,” he said.
Abdul Mohaimen Hamid of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos-Northern Mindanao (NCMF), said the Muslim community in the city also supports such move to ensure clean, honest and peaceful elections.
“NCMF-Northern Mindanao has established good relationship with different organizations in the city including the Philippine National Police and Armed Force of the Philippines. In fact, last year we've had series of programs and campaigns against terroristic activities and violent extremism,” he said.
Dubbed as “Lakad para sa Kapayapaan ng Halalan at Pamayanan (Walk for Peaceful Elections and Community),” the solidarity walk will begin at 7 a.m. from Rodelsa circle all the way to Kiosko Kagawasan in Divisoria.
Hortillosa said the solidarity walk, interfaith rally and peace covenant signing is a concrete proof that “Kagay-anons are one for peace and strongly denounce any acts of violence.”
The activity will conclude by releasing of white doves as symbol of peace and unity.