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Peace activists walk barefoot for peace

John Unson, Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - February 7, 2015 - 4:43pm

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - Hundreds of peace activists on Friday walked barefoot for one hour around the 32-hectare compound here of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to drumbeat their desire for a peaceful resolution of the January 25 hostilities in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

The marchers were led by ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, members of his regional cabinet and representatives from the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT), a multinational peacekeeping contingent helping enforce the ceasefire between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front since late 2003.

About a thousand rank-and-file employees of different ARMM agencies joined the Yapakapayapaan, organized by Hataman’s office, the regional police, the military and different community organizations in Cotabato City and Maguindanao.

Officials of different entities of the United Nations involved in humanitarian projects in predominantly Moro areas and other foreign-funded non-government organizations also marched barefoot along with ARMM employees.

Members of the Hataman-led inter-agency, multi-sectoral regional peace and order council and representatives of the joint government-MILF ceasefire committee also joined the peace march, which started at exactly 3:00 p.m. Friday and ended an hour later.

Members of Central Mindanao’s two most influential press groups,  the Kampilan Press Corps and the ARMM Police Press Club, also joined the activity.

Hataman told reporters the Yapakapayapaan was meant to show people outside of Maguindanao, in Visayas, in Metro Manila and in Luzon that local folks are against any escalation of hostilities between the MILF and government forces as a possible consequence of the January 25 encounter between policemen and Moro guerillas in three barangays in Mamasapano town.

The encounter, which lasted for 10 hours, left 44 members of the police’s Special Action Force dead. The MILF's central committee confirmed losing 18 guerillas in the gunfight.

Four innocent villagers caught in the crossfire also died in the incident, which forced the evacuation of some 2,000 families away from their villages in the three affected barangays, Tukanalipao, Pidsandawan and Inog-og.

The skirmishes erupted after SAF members killed Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, most known as Marwan, in a dawn raid at his hideout in Barangay Pidsandawan.

The policemen were maneuvering their way out from Marwan's lair when they figured in an encounter with MILF rebels belonging to the group’s 105th Base Command, and a third group, the brigand Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

AUTONOMOUS REGION BANGSAMORO ISLAMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS BARANGAY PIDSANDAWAN BASE COMMAND COTABATO CITY AND MAGUINDANAO HATAMAN INTERNATIONAL MONITORING TEAM KAMPILAN PRESS CORPS MAGUINDANAO MAMASAPANO MARWAN
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