Key public officials prepare to fire symbolic shots to mark the start of the “shoot for peace with love” multi-sectoral pistol and rifle competition in Camp Siongco in Maguindanao. John Unson
Hundreds joined the February 18-19 “shoot for peace with love” at the Army’s Camp Siongco, meant to foster solidarity among stakeholders to the southern peace process.
Pistol and rifle experts from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), from the police and from different units of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6th ID) joined the contest.
The event was jointly organized by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, Major Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. of the Western Mindanao Command and 6th ID’s commander Brig. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega.
A team of journalists from different outfits also joined the shooting match, supervised by the Cotabato City Pistol and Rifle Association (CCPRA).
The CCPRA is a government-accredited gun club whose members are actively supporting Malacañang’s peace overtures with Moro sectors.
The symbolic launching of the activity on Saturday was attended by the chief executive of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Gov. Mujiv Hataman, Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu and House Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Sandra Sema.
The group of reporters who joined the competition was led by former Cotabato City councilor Florante Formento, manager of the Brigada FM station in Cotabato City.
The MNLF’s team was personally escorted to the Camp Siongco shooting range by former Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema.
Sema is the chairman of the largest and most politically active faction in the MNLF, which is not hostile to the MILF.
The MNLF forged a peace agreement with the national government on Sept. 2, 1996, while yet a monolithic group then led by its founder, Nur Misuari, who is so opposed to the current government-MILF diplomatic dealings.
Dureza, in a message, urged Mindanao’s Muslim, Christian and Lumad communities to continue helping push the southern peace process forward.
The peace process aims to put a negotiated closure to the “Moro issue” hounding the nation for more than four decades now.
“The Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, the MILF and MNLF, the private sectors and all stakeholders to the peace process must not shoot at each other, but all together shoot down poverty, extremism, illiteracy and bigotry instead. These are the scourges of society that condone misunderstandings and conflicts,” Dureza said.
Col. Markton Abo, 6th ID’s civil-military relations officer, said the Army and police teams that participated in the two-day “shoot for peace with love” were comprised of combined Muslim and Christian uniformed personnel.
“These are the kind of competitions that will inculcate among them the importance of teamwork and cooperation to achieve noble goals,” Abo said.