DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 20 July) – Participants joining the seven-day human rights caravan, Manilakbayan, appealed to the Philippine National Police (PNP) to allow them hold a rally outside Batasang Pambansa in a show of support for President Rodrigo R. Duterte in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25.
“President Duterte, let your fellow Mindanawons march with you in your first SONA. Allow us to hold a rally near Batasan. Let this act be a symbol of our common desire to push genuine change and achieve a just peace for our people,” Bai Ali Indayla, spokesperson for Manilakbayan, said in a statement issued Wednesday.
She said that they left for Manila last Monday in what they called the biggest Manilakbayan with 3,000 participants composed of Lumads, Moros and farmers in Mindanao.
Indayla claimed that the contingents, who are in Tacloban as of Wednesday, are victims of militarization and human rights violations.
Last October 2015, “Manilakbayan ng Mindanao” was participated in by some 1,000 Lumads and human rights defenders to urge former President Benigno S. Aquino III to stop human rights abuses and killings of the indigenous people.
“Today (Wednesday) marks the third day of our Manilakbayan and we are currently in Tacloban. With each day, hundreds more are expected to join our caravan. Most have come from the countryside, victims of continuing militarization and human rights violations. They hope that the Duterte government will hear their cries and address their grievances,” Indayla said.
She said that they are tavelling across the country to witness Duterte’s SONA and appeal to him “to hear our plea for change.”
Indayla said that some Mindanawons have been “marginalized and oppressed, our lands plundered and our kin lost because of past governments that waged war against us” through generations.
She appealed that they be allowed to march on streets to express their common hope for justice and peace for Mindanao.
“We appeal that you may understand and grant us the opportunity to march in the streets of Manila, to raise our voices and agenda for peace – genuine agrarian reform, protection of our ancestral land and natural resources, pursuit of peace talks with the NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) and the Moro liberation groups, and justice for all victims of oppression,” she said.
Indayla told a press conference Monday that they are calling on Duterte to stop militarization, which topped the list of their 15-point people’s agenda of Mindanao.
She said that the rally might be held the traditional way, only that no effigies will be set on fire.
“Dili sya rally batok kay (this is not a rally against) President Duterte but rally in support for his progressive and pro-people policies,” Indayla said.
“Wala nagpasabot nga nakalingkod na si President Duterte human na ang papel sa katawhan sa pagsuporta kaniya para mapatuman ang pagbago ug kalambuan nga iyang gi-promise sa katawhan. Kinahanglan nato sya kuyugan (This does not mean that now that Duterte’s in power, the people’s role in supporting achieve change and development that he promised to the people already ended. We have to support him),” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)