The protest action, led by peace advocates belonging to an alliance called March 18 Committee, will cap the March 16-17 International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao organized by the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC) at the Davao Convention Center here.
At a meeting of the organizers here Sunday evening, Rahib Kudto, president of the United Youth for Peace and Development (Unypad), said that schools, religious organizations, communities and non-government organizations in more than 10 convergence areas are “already prepared for this big day in Mindanao.”
Organizers include the Mindanao Alliance for Peace, Unypad, Balay Rehabilitation Center, Bantay Ceasefire, Center for Just Peace, Inter-Religious Dialogue Program of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the Ginapalad-Taka Zone of Peace in Pikit.
ISCM participants, numbering at least 140, will join a caravan to the convergence areas to express their solidarity with the demand for peace, the organizers said.
Among the convergence areas where there will be short programs with the ISMC participants are Davao City, Kidapawan City, Kabacan, Pikit and Midsayap in North Cotabato, Crossing Simuay in Sultan Kudarat, Datu Piang and Ampatuan towns, all of Maguindanao, Cotabato City, and Buluan of Sultan Kudarat.
Kudto, who is also MPC secretary-general, said that they will start at 6:00 a.m. on March 18 with a “Run for Peace” here led by running priest Fr. Robert Reyes.
March 18, which marks the 41st commemoration of the infamous Jabidah massacre, happens to be the date of ordination of Fr. Reyes.
Jibin Arula, the lone survivor of the Jabidah Massacre, will also join the one day caravan.
Arula had been going around communities in Mindanao since March 1 to narrate the story about the bloodbath where 26 of his fellow soldier-trainees were murdered by their trainers. They were supposed to be trained as mercenaries who would launch sabotage operations in Sabah, Malaysia in relation to the country’s claim over that part of Borneo Island.
Kudto said Fr. Reyes will be joined by thousands of people who would come from the ranks of cyclists, bikers, farm laborers, students and businessmen who will converge at the Freedom Park.
Davao City protesters will see off the caravan participants at Sirawan in Toril at 8 a.m.
The next stopover of the caravan will be in Kidapawan City and Kabacan where they will join around 25,000 people in a short rally for peace.
Some 30,000 people in Pikit are expected to hold a short program upon the arrival of the caravan.
“A two-kilometer stretch of the national highway from Pagalungan Bridge to Barangay Batulawan will be filled with people,” said Kudto, adding residents of the seven-barangay peace zone, other villages, and eight schools are among those who will participate in the protest for peace.
Mayor Sultan Sumulong, an ISCM participant, will lead the welcome party for the caravan.
From Pikit, the caravan will join around 10,000 students and communities, including some local government officials of Midsayap in a short program.
Fr. Romeo Saniel, OMI, president of the Notre Dame of Midsayap College, will lead the group that will welcome the caravan.
The caravan will then proceed to Crossing Simuay where at least 40,000 people will join the caravan participants in a short peace rally before they proceed to Cotabato City where a similar activity would be done at the Polytechnic College.
From Cotabato City, the caravan will proceed to Datu Piang where the municipal government will brief them on the situation of evacuees at the town’s gymnasium where some 20,000 of them have been housed for the past seven months.
Afterwards the caravan will stop for short programs in Ampatuan and Buluan towns and motor back to Davao City for a thanksgiving mass to be presided by Fr. Reyes. (Romy Elusfa/MindaNews contributor)