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PIA Press Release

Mindanao peace group, poll watchdog to hold forum with presidentiables

Davao City (27 February) -- Peace votes from Mindanao are crucial in winning the 2010 national elections. And these votes may well account to more than 600,000, a huge number of internally displaced persons, who are keeping their collective support for a candidate who can provide a clear political platform in ending the conflict in Mindanao.

This is the gist of the Mindanao Leaders Forum with the May 2010 Presidential and Senatorial Candidates slated on March 16, 2010 to be held in this city, in time with the celebration of the 73rd Araw ng Dabaw.

Organized by the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC) and the Citizen's Coalition on ARMM Electoral Reform (C-CARE), the event will bring in multi-sectoral groups, especially the bakwits from Maguindanao and Lanao, face to face with the standard bearers of ten official political parties competing in the first-ever automated polls in the country.

Lawyer Mary Ann Arnado, MPC secretary general, said the "goal of the discussion is to present the Peace Platform of the Mindanao stakeholders to the presidential candidates and elicit from each one of them his or her policy directions and programs on how Mindanaoans will be able to achieve genuine peace and development."

"We would also be interested on how they view the situation of the IDPs, who until now, are camped in evacuation centers in Maguindanao and Lanao del Norte," Arnadao said.

C-CARE chairperson Salic Ibrahim added that there will be 200 peoples organizations from all over Mindanao who will attend the forum together with 500 leaders from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and neighboring towns and provinces which are directly and indirectly affected by the armed conflict.

"This event is intended to provide a venue where leaders of civil society, peace networks, representatives of IDPs, humanitarian workers, indigenous and Bangsamoro communities, women and youth will be able to listen to the platforms for peace and development in Mindanao given the longstanding armed conflict that besieged the island for over four decades now," Ibrahim said.

Arnado added that the participants would be interested to listen to a presidentiable's views on critical issues that have direct impact on the day to day survival of communities in conflict areas, war and displacement, ancestral domain, environment, mining and the peace process.

C-CARE is a poll watchdog accredited by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) specifically in monitoring the elections in ARMM. It has been instrumental in opening formal mechanisms for people's participation in ensuring fair and clean elections in the region.

MPC, on the other hand, is a broad movement of grassroost organizations which pioneered the Bantay Ceasefire, an independent ceasefire monitoring mechanism in the GRP-MILF talks. It recently joined the expanded International Monitoring Team (IMT) under the Civilian Protection Component (CPC). Among those invited are Sen. Benigno Aquino II (LP), Sen. Manuel Villar (NP), Gilberto Teodoro, (Lakas), Eduardo Villanueva (BP), Richard Gordon (Bayan-VNP), Joseph Estrada (PMP), Nicanor Perlas (Ind), and Jamby Madrigal (Ind). (RRF) [top]

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