Volunteer ‘ambassadors’ urge: Give peace a chance
MANILA, Philippines—Amid fresh outbreaks of sectarian violence in the Middle East, President Benigno Aquino III on Friday rallied Filipinos to do their part in bringing peace to the country, which is still wracked by Muslim secessionism and communist insurgency.
The President issued the fresh call for engagement in the peace process after international rap star apl.de.ap and other Filipino actors, musicians, and members of the Azkal football team trooped to Malacañang to pledge to be “peace ambassadors.”
Mr. Aquino hailed the peace ambassadors who volunteered to promote peace through social media and through their various endeavors.
Aside from apl.de.ap of the United States-based Black Eyed Peas band, Mr. Aquino also acknowledged singer-composer Noel Cabangon and actress Anne Curtis, who signed up as peace ambassadors along with TV host-comedian Ramon Bautista, actors Epy Quizon, Gerald Anderson, Megan Young, and Mikael Daez, musicians Christian Bautista, Datu Khomeini, Ebe Dancel, and Gloc 9; TV host-sportsman Rovilson Fernandez, fashion designers Arnold Galang and JC Buendia, actor Derek Ramsey, comedians Kiray and Igi Boy; singer-actress Karylle, performer Sam Concepcion and social media personality Kimpoy Feliciano, among others.
“If we want to heal the wounds of bloody wars and erase the scars of pessimism and skepticism, it’s time to set aside conflict on ideology, belief and religion,” Mr. Aquino told the peace ambassadors and the campaign’s business partners at the Rizal Hall.
“Now that this is coming true, a new morning will greet the next generation, the kind where instead of the roar of cannon, and smell of sulfur, they will be roused by the cock’s crow, the smell of coffee and freshly cooked breakfast, and the warm embrace of their parents,” he added.
“We can achieve this, and rest assured we will exhaust all means to fulfill this. And this can be fast-tracked if we all join hands toward a peaceful country. Come on, join me: Let’s bring a more peaceful tomorrow to every Filipino.”
The President praised Secretary Teresita Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process; Marvic Leonen, chair of the government peace panel and Undersecretary Alex Padilla, for facilitating talks with rebel groups.
‘Process is ripe’
Deles, also addressing the peace ambassadors, reported progress in talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to end the decades-long secessionist war in Mindanao.
“The process is ripe. We’re about to pick the fruits of intensive negotiations between the government and the MILF. The time for peace is now,” Deles said.
Mr. Aquino noted there has been no encounter with the MILF rebels from January to August this year.
However, negotiations with the communist New People’s Army, suspended for some time, have not moved.
“It’s sad to admit that the Philippines is the record-holder of the ‘world’s longest-running communist insurgency.’ It has been 42 years. This means that in more than four decades, no final peace agreement has been forged by the government and the communist rebels,” Mr. Aquino said.
The reason, he said, was that some chose to live in the shadow of fear and violence, and were “used to the culture and ideology of armed struggle.”
United for peace
“But like us, they also desire peace,” he said. “That’s why we’re all here today. While we’re coming from different fields, we’re united in staking everything for peace to prevail, and shout in all corners of our country that ‘I’m for Peace.’”
The government reopened peace talks with the communist rebels in February last year. The talks, however, hit a snag after the rebels demanded the release of detained comrades.
“Today is a beautiful day for peace,” Deles said in her welcome remarks. “We are glad to say that what was once a few will now become many. May this be the start of another lifelong partnership that will bring change and empower our nation amid difficulties and tribulations.”
Companies so far partnering with government on the peace campaign include
ABS-CBN, Golden Arches Development Corp., Liwayway Marketing Corp., M Concepts & Style, Philippine Seven Corp. and Zest-O Corp.