Amid continuing armed hostilities in Mindanao, the City Council of Bacolod endorsed a resolution asking Malacanang to heed the appeal for peace of the Negros contingent of a peace caravan which traveled last November from Baguio to Cotabato.
Resolution No. 972, proposed by Bacolod Councilor Jocelle Batapa-Sigue, expressed solidarity to the delegates of the Duyog Mindanao Caravan for Peace and Solidarity who have witnessed the plight of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the evacuation centers of Datu Piang in Maguindanao and Lanao province. The resolution was submitted to the Office of the President of the Republic of the Philippines. The caravan was spearheaded by the Mindanao Peaceweavers (MPW), the broadest coalition of peace networks in Mindanao.
Citing that peace is still the best process in situation of conflict and for the benefit of thousands of people displaced, the city councilors joined in the call “to our friends from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to stop the war in Mindanao” and asked both parties to sit down and resume the peace talks instead of going to war.
The city policymakers also asked the public to help the IDPs who badly need humanitarian aid in whatever means possible. “Children, women and the elderly which are the most vulnerable in this situation need food, medicines and other basic support like water, clothing, and other items,” the resolution said. Bacolod and its neighboring city Iloilo were keys stops of the caravan were a number of Mindanao’s settlers come from. The caravan was welcomed warmly by both cities.
The resolution was a product of a dialogue between the local government of Bacolod and members of Pax Christi Bacolod Chapter who composed the Duyog Mindanao Negros contingent. They joined the caravan leg from Bacolod to Mindanao, passing by Cagayan de Oro, Bukidnon, Davao, Lanao and converged in Cotabato City in time for the Mindanao Week of Peace straddling the last week of November and first week of December.
Apart from the Pax Christi participants, the caravan was composed of indigenous peoples from the Cordilllera, workers, students, Moro youth, women, activists, NGO workers from Luzon, Metro Manila, as well as the core group of IDPs, church workers, Moro community leaders from Mindanao and members of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), the Davao-based regional advocacy institution which serves as the MPW lead secretariat.
The Pax Christi delegates said they have witnessed that majority of the people and communities in Mindanao want to end the armed conflict and live in peace. Upon entry to evacuation centers in Datu Piang and Lanao, they saw the grave conditions of “bakwit” Muslim, Lumads and Christian brothers and sisters who for several months now are deprived of basic human rights like water and sanitation, education, food and dignified living condition.
“The armed hostilities between the military and the MILF have indeed reached dangerous proportions because our internally displaced brothers and sisters in Datu Piang alone for example, have reached 600,000 and more are unaccounted for in different areas affected by the conflict,” said Mark Cervantes of Pax Christi.
“It is for this reason that we pursue our solidarity to the people of Mindanao and put the objectives of the Duyog Mindanao caravan into action,” Cervantes said.
Similar resolutions are expected to be passed by the Negros provincial board, the Iloilo city council, Davao City council, Mindoro provincial board among others.
The Caravan ended with a rousing endorsement of the development of a Mindanao Peoples Peace Agenda (MPPA) that will be evolved by the MPW constituency as a framework of unity and action on issues and concerns buffeting the peoples of Mindanao.