PEACETALK: Dear President Duterte

MANILA (MindaNews/24 July) — On July 18, 3,000 Mindanao Lumad, farmers, Moro, workers and activists embarked on a Manilakbayan (caravan) to take part in President Rodrigo Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25.

This is the first time that a significant contingent from Mindanao will be taking part in the SONA event in Manila.

Today marks the sixth day of our Manilakbayan and we are currently in Manila.  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.

With hope in our hearts, we are now travelling across the country to witness the President’s first SONA and appeal to him to hear our cry for change.

As people from Mindanao, we have lived through generations of being marginalized and oppressed, our lands plundered and our kin lost because of past governments that waged war against us.

We appeal to President Duterte to allow us near the Batasang Pambansa to express our common hope for justice and peace for Mindanao and for the whole Philippines.  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 and the Moro liberation groups, and justice for all victims of oppression. We likewise call on the Philippine National Police to respect the rights of the citizens and to refrain from blocking rally participants, as was the case with previous SONA’s.

President Duterte, let your fellow Mindanawons march with you on your first SONA. Allow us to hold our 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.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. PeaceTalk is open to anyone who wishes to share his/her thoughts on peace in the country, particularly in Mindanao. Bai Ali Indayla is spokesperson of Manilakbayan. Josephine Pagalan, a Manobo leader from the Caraga region will be the guest of Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate in the first State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte)