Thousands line up road for Mindanao Peace Power Day

MOA-AD refers to the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which  participants in the Mindanao Peace Power Day caravan from Davao City to Datu Piang in Maguindanao, on to Sultan Kudarat province, want honored.

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Organizers had earlier said thousands of residents and evacuees were expected to “ask government to immediately declare a ceasefire and work for the resumption of the stalled peace talks with the MILF.””respect, implement, sign and support” the MOA-AD. 

But the messages on paper, placards and streamers were on the MOA-AD.

A product of  four years of negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the MOA-AD,  the third on the major agenda points of the talks,  was initialed on July 27, 2008 in Malaysia and scheduled for formal signing on August 5 but the Supreme Court stopped its signing through  a temporary restraining order filed by leaders of North Cotabato and the cities of Zamboanga and Iligan.

The Supreme Court in October declared the agreement “unconstitutional,” a month after the Philippine government “dissolved” its peace panel and shifted its peace paradigm

In the aftermath of the failed signing, armed encounters which began in July in North Cotabato, heightened, more so when the MILF attacked some towns in Lanao del Norte and Sarangani on August 18.

The renewed hostilities displaced, at its peak,  around 600,000 residents in North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte, Maguindanao and neighboring areas.
As of  the last update of the National Disaster Coordinating Council on January 27, there were still 314,000 internally displaced persons in the evacuation camps.

The Malayasian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) which was ending it tour of duty on November 30, 2008, was not extended as there was no joint request from the government and MILF peace panels for extension. By then, the government peace panel had been dissolved.

The government and MILF peace panels have yet to resume peace negotiations.

From Davao City, the caravan’s first stop was in Barangay Patadon, Kidapawan, North Cotabato where members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) community and grade school students displayed placards along the Davao-Cotabato highway. In Matalam,  MNLF community members also lined up, shouting, “we need peace in Mindanao.”

At the junction of Barangay Kayaga in Carmen and the Cotabato-Bukidnon highway, about a thousand residents met the convoy. In crossing Rajahmuda in Pikit, North Cotabato, about 700 and around 30 soldiers.

Earlier in Davao City,  running priest Robert Reyes made a “run for peace” in solidarity with the Moro people. He was joined by Redemptorist priest Amado Picardal, the “bing priest,” and other bikers and runners.

March 18, dubbed Bangsamoro Freedom Day in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the 41st anniversary of the Jabidah Massacre and the reckoning date of the founding of the MNLF, also happens to be the 27th anniversary of  Fr. Reyes’ ordination.

“I am renewed as a priest because today is my 27th anniversary. It’s a different celebration of the mass by experiencing the sacrifice of Christ on the road, witnessing the suffering of Muslims. This is a different breaking and sharing of bread by sharing people’s aspiration for peace,” he said.

In Midsayap, the local government placed a streamer “No to MOA-AD (Memorandum of Yes to United Mindanao” at the junction of the highway. Fr. Romeo Saniel, head of the Notre Dame of Midsayap said they did not touch the streamer as the local government might get angry. But when the convoy arrived, Moro students ran to where the streamer was displayed, blocking the message.  They were joined by students from St. Mary’s High School

In Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, some 3,000 people joined a peace rally as a hundred motorcycle riders joined the convoy from Simuay to  the City Hall of Cotabato.

The caravan was organized by the Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus and its member-organizations — the Mindanao Alliance for Peace, Unypad, Balay Rehabilitation Center, Bantay Ceasefire, Center for Just Peace. It was also participated in by the Inter-Religious Dialogue Program of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the Ginapalad-Taka Zone of Peace in Pikit. 

The caravan followed a two-day International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)

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