“President Duterte, let your fellow Mindanawons march with you in your first SONA. Allow us to hold a rally near Batasan.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – The people’s caravan called “Manilakbayan ng Mindanao” is on the road again, its delegates now numbering thousands, to match their increased optimism, as they bring their agenda to another Mindanaoan – President Rodrigo Duterte who delivers his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25.
They bring the same calls — to stop militarization and attacks in their communities and schools, to halt the destruction of the environment and people’s livelihood, and for the resumption of the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). But this time, they are more upbeat that their proposals for “common hope for justice and peace for Mindanao and for the whole Philippines” will be heeded.
“President Duterte, let your fellow Mindanawons march with you in your first SONA. Allow us to hold a rally near Batasan,” said Bai Ali Indayla, Manilakbayan spokesperson and third nominee of the Gabriela Women’s Partylist.
SONA rallies in the past get only as far as Ever Gotesco Mall along Commonwealth Avenue, where they were usually blocked by a formidable wall of layers of container vans, concrete barricades, barbed wires, and thousands of anti-riot police men. The SONA venue is kilometers away, in Batasang Pambansa complex along Batasan road.
The Manilakbayan expects to submit a 10-point Mindanao People’s Agenda to Duterte.
“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,” Indayla said.
The caravan took off from several points in the island of Mindanao on July 19, gathering force as it crosses the sea and passes through the regions of Eastern Visayas, Bicol and Southern Tagalog, where they will be joined by other progressive groups as they head to Manila.
On July 23, the caravan is expected to arrive in Metro Manila at around 4 p.m., thru the Alabang viaduct in Muntinlupa city, from where the rallyists will march along EDSA towards the University of the Philippines-Diliman campus in Quezon City.
On July 24, contingents from the Northern and Central Luzon will arrive to join the vigil at the Quezon City Memorial Circle, from where they will take off the next day for the rally.
This year’s SONA rally is expected to have the biggest contingent from the provinces.
Manilakbayan ng Mindanao was first launched in 2012 to campaign for food, justice and peace in the island. It was again held in 2014, amid the continued attacks on Lumád schools, evacuations and killings. The third Manilakbayan took off in 2015 with the intensified call “Stop Lumad Killings” after the massacre in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.