More people in Luzon, Visayas call for a stop to the war in Mindanao

Dec. 15, 2008

DAVAO CITYPeople in the Visayas and Luzon are joining calls to stop the war in Mindanao after the peace caravan that traveled the whole stretch of the archipelago for seven days had open their eyes to understand the conflict for the first time, Gus Miclat, the executive director of IID, said upon the return of the caravan here.

Miclat said the 50-man caravan that traveled to 12 cities in different parts of the country have gained supporters, especially among people in Iloilo and Bacolod, who have joined the call to stop the war in Mindanao and for the peace talks to resume.

The caravan aimed at addressing the age old biases against the Moro people that had resurfaced in the media following the botched signing of the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) that triggered renewed fighting between government troops and the Moro rebels in Mindanao.

Miclat said that its only through a thorough understanding of the root causes of the conflict that people from the Visayas and Luzon can begin to respect the Moro peoples right to self determination.

He said the peace caravan also wants to call attention to the humanitarian crisis in Mindanao, where over half a million people were rendered homeless because of the war.

That there are 600,000 refugees in Datu Piang alone, nobody knows and nobody cares. They think its normal, but its not normal to the evacuees. Thats why, we launch this caravan to get people in the North to join us in this campaign, physically and otherwise, Miclat said.

He said the Iloilo city council and the Bacolod provincial government are coming up with a resolution calling for the government to stop the war and for peace talks to resume. The peace talks had collapsed after the failed signing of the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain in August that triggered renewed hostilities between government troops and the rebels.

In Iloilo, we were embraced by the Ilonggos, said Miclat. And this is supposed to be the heart of Ilonggo land, he said.

He said the Ilonggos have often been perceived to have deep-seated bias against the Moro people because of the fanatical group Ilaga that led the slaughter of Moro fighters during the height of the conflict in the 1970s.

For years, Mindanao church and civil society groups have been working to bridge these biases but they resurfaced again following the failed signing of the MOA-AD.

Weve seen not only hostilities but also the prejudice and biases from outside of Mindanao, not only resurface but become the strongest, Miclat said. Weve been hearing it from our leaders, including opposition leaders, weve been hearing it from our friends in civil society but most especially, weve been hearing this in the media, which presented their biases in the way they portray the news.

Six people from the Cordillera and 11 from Iloilo city joined the caravan.

Among the 11 Ilonggos, Mark Cervantes, a member of the group Pax Christi based in Bacolod, was moved to see the evacuees in Datu Piang for the first time. The picture really is heartbreaking. Displaced Moro sisters and brothers living in makeshift tents not suited for humans, he said in a text message.

Our presence is a sign that we support peace, Cervantes, told the Inquirer upon their arrival in Davao. Our participation in the caravan means that were joining the calls to stop the war in Mindanao and review the MOA-AD.

Were happy that not all people have this bias, said Miclat on the caravans arrival in Davao city, They have questions but theyre also looking for answers, Miclat said.

Davao was the last leg before the caravan proceeded to Cotabato city, where the culminating activity was held simultaneously in Cebu, completing the seven day journey that began in Baguio and covered over a thousand kilometers to 11 other cities across the country.

The peace caravan had brief stop over in the cities of Baguio, Pampanga, Bulacan, Quezon, Batangas, Calapan, Iloilo, Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, before proceeding to Davao and Cotabato. The culmination activities in Cotabato were held simultaneously with Cebu. (Germelina Lacorte/Davao Today)

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