“Akyat GMA” plan succeeds in handing over statement to Pres. Arroyo

But handing over the paper to the President succeeded only after two failed attempts by the group earlier prevented by truncheon-yielding policemen to get nearer the Marco Polo Hotel where Ms Arroyo was meeting officers of the Bishops-Ulama Conference.

At the Freedom Park around 250 meters across the hotel, peace advocates waved their streamers and placards hoping an aide of the President would see their demands and relay them to Arroyo.

Before they assembled at the Freedom Park, a group of four representatives composed of a lawyer, a religious leader and two other community leaders managed to reach the mezzanine floor of the Hotel where the President was, but failed to hand their manifesto to the President as they were not allowed inside the function room.

As the four joined their group back at the Freedom Park, they hatched a plan "Akyat GMA," which identified four women who should go back to the hotel to hand the manifesto to the President.

The plan was for them to mix with a multisectoral group of journalists and government employees who were waiting for the President to come out of the function room.

At the Freedom Park, the agreement was for the peace advocates to raise their placards and streamers as high as they could for the President's convoy to notice them on their way from the hotel to the airport.

Each of the four women — Atty. Mary Ann Arnado, secretary-general of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus, her companions Lou Gecosala, Jan Francis Lozano and Shari Palabrica of the Initiatives for International Dialogue and Mindanao Peaceweavers, had their respective copies of the manifesto so that anyone who could chance on getting near Arroyo should be ready to hand over the paper.

As the President finally got out of the function room, Gecosala first got near and talked to one of the BUC leaders, like she were part of the team following Arroyo out of the room.

Within the President’s hearing distance, Geocosala said,  “Madam President, I am from the Bantay Ceasefire and we are here to hand you this position paper of the war victims. This paper supports your administration's policy which upholds the primacy of the peace process.”

"Thank you," said the President as she received the document that told the President that her administration's decision to simply respect and accept the decision of the Malaysian government to pull-out from the IMT was "sort of a betrayal to the Arroyo administration's pronouncement on the primacy of the peace process."     

The Bantay Ceasefire is a volunteer group of 600-strong independent grassroots-based ceasefire monitors recognized both by the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front and acknowledged by the IMT.

Rexall Kaalim, coordinator of the Bantay Ceasefire, said that they would not stop appealing for Malacanang to heed their pleas.

"From now on, we shall, on a daily basis, do everything we can to follow up our request for the President to ensure the IMT stays in Mindanao, otherwise we may all be bracing for a deadly, horrifying and damaging war," Kaalim told MindaNews.

He said they were also requesting all Filipinos, especially the business groups, to send position letters, resolutions, letters of appeal, email or call the President in support to the Bantay Ceasefire's demands.

"The businessmen should make their voices be heard because during the war they were the ones greatly affected. Our hotels in Davao had zero occupancy during the wars in 2000 and 2003," said Arnado.  (Romy B. Elusfa/Special to MindaNews)

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