Lawyer Mary Ann Arnado, MPC director, said they are urging residents in the cities of Cotabato, Davao, Tacurong, Koronadal, General Santos and Digos to take to the highways for a few hours that day for the “Mindanao Peace Power Day” which the MPC describes in its invitation as “an island-wide peaceful mobilization of sectors and peoples affected by the ongoing war in (Southwestern) Mindanao.”
"This is a little sacrifice we are making in exchange for peace in Mindanao," Arnado told reporters during a press conference last Wednesday. “The evacuees who are still in the evacuation centers are craving for peace so their lives will be normal again. Let's help them," she added.
The United Nations estimated that there are still some 300,000 evacuees in Maguindanao and North Cotbato and the two Lanao provinces who are still living in makeshift roadside tents unable to return to their homes because of the ongoing military operations against Ameril Umbra Kato and Abdullah Macapaar alias “Kumander Bravo,” two of three “rogue commanders” of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) wanted by authorities for the series of deadly attacks last year.
The planned mass action coincides with the 41st anniversary of the Jabidah Massacre where 26 young Moros being trained by government to invade Sabah, Malaysia were allegedly ordered murdered by their Army training officers in Corregidor.
Jibin Arula, the lone survivor of the Corregidor massacre, is in Davao City to help drum up support for the “Mindanao Peace Power Day."
MPC is also initiating the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao on March 16-18 at the Davao Convention Center with the theme, “Building Bridges of Solidarity for the Bangsamoro Peoples' Right to Self-Determination.”
The international conference aims to “increase international presence and solidarity for the peaceful political settlement of the armed conflict in Mindanao; strengthen international cooperation in monitoring compliance of International Humanitarian Laws and Human Rights; and identify critical roles and involvement that the international community could play in the areas of humanitarian protection, human rights, peacekeeping, mediation and facilitation etc.”
Romy Elusfa, MPC spokesperson, said NGOs in the two Lanao provinces are also working to urge residents to go out on March 18.
"While the campaign has the resumption of the peace talks between the government and the MILF as main focus, it shall allow all other sectors and groups in Mindanao to also ventilate other peace related issues and demands," Elusfa said in a statement. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)