DAVAO CITY – An estimate of 40,000 activists from different parts of Mindanao marched the streets to support the resumption of the peace negotiations between the Duterte administration and the National Democratic Front.
The march rally also commemorated the first year death anniversary of New People’s Army commander Leoncio Pitao, nom de guerre Ka Parago, who was killed in a military raid on June 28, 2015 in Barangay Pañalum, Paquibato District, this city.
As rain poured early morning Tuesday, the crowd walked for about 5 kilometers from Magsaysay Park to Rizal Park, passing by Quezon Boulevard heading to Roxas Avenue, Ponciano St., UM Bolton before ending at the Rizal Park.
Some 50 marchers wore masks of Ka Parago and carried the flags of the New People’s Army and the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Along the way, rallyists chanted “Mabuhay Ka Parago, mabuhay ang Bagong Hukbong Bayan” (Long live Ka Parago, long live the NPA) and “Viva CPP, NPA, NDF”.
Parago is considered as the “most elusive” NPA commander in Davao region. His unit, the 1st Pulang Bagani Company captured Brigadier General Victor Obillo, the highest ranking military officer in the country who was made a prisoner of war on February 17,1999.
Understanding armed struggle
The march rally preceded a peace forum held at the Davao Recreation Center in the afternoon.
Reverend Jurie Jaime, convener of the Exodus for Justice and Peace which organized the peace forum, said their group is calling for the peace process and for Duterte to address the root causes of the armed conflict between the government and the NPA.
The primary root cause of the problem here in the country, according to Jaime, is the economic monopoly by the few which perpetuates social injustice.
Lisa Sagudar, 40, a Manobo farmer and a widow, said she hopes to show her support for Duterte.
Sagudar earns P260 or less a day, which is not enough to shoulder all the basic needs of her four children.
“Niapil ko ani nga rally para ipakita akong suporta kang Duterte na mahatagan niya ug oportunidad ang mga mag-uuma (I joined the rally to support Duterte’s plans of giving opportunity to farmers ),” she said.
Mingoy Pagkat, a father of three children, also a Manobo, joined the march because he believed that the peace process could really help resolve the conflicts that exist in Mindanao.
Sagudar and Pagkat were among the thousands of participants who joined the event dubbed “Pukaw Kalinaw:Unity for Justice and Lasting Peace”.
Jaime said the gathering aims to “educate communities and various sectors on the need to address the roots of the armed conflict .”
“With this call for the resumption of peace talks, the EJP shall work for the continuing advocacy and education to substantiate the agenda of socio-economic reforms to include justice for farmers, workers, indigenous peoples, minorities and other sectors,” he said.
Joel Maglunsod, of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Vice President in Mindanao and incoming undersecretary of Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), said that the continuing peace talks that has happened is a good sign and should be given support by the people.
“Walang totoong pagbabago kung walang suporta ang mamamayan (There will be no genuine change without the people’s support),” he said.
According to him, the release of political detainees is a step towards decisively ending the armed conflict in the country.
He added that Duterte’s advocacies during his campaign should be pushed once he sits as the president.
“Hindi ito maging realidad kung hindi magtuloy-tuloy ang usapang pangkapayapaan,” he said, stating that the resumption of peace talks should be addressed first so that all of these reforms will come into place. (With a report from Jennica Diaz/davaotoday.com)