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Thousands turn out for pre-election prayer rally

MANILA (UCAN): The challenge is “for everyone to be on guard and always to maintain peace,” Father Lucio Rosaroso Jr., vicar-general for the police from the Military Ordinariate, said, as an estimated 6,000 of people, from religious leaders, policemen, soldiers, students and poll candidates turned out for a unity walk whih culminated in interfaith prayer rally at the Quezon City Memorial Circle, Quezon City, the Philippines, on January 13. 
The gathering called for safe and peaceful elections ahead of the country’s mid-term polls for members of Congress, governors, mayors and other local leaders in May.
Candidates signed an Integrity Pledge, promising to abide by the country’s laws, respect the sanctity of the electoral exercise and shun any form of violence. Similar activities were held in other provinces. 
Philippine elections in the past have always been marred by violence.
In village chief elections last May, authorities reported at least 35 people killed in poll-related violence. Police also confiscated 1,157 firearms, 7,926 rounds of ammunition, 79 grenades and 350 explosive devices.
Guillermo Eleazar, director of the National Police office in the Philippine capital, said the unity walk and prayer rally “emphasised the importance of teamwork … to achieve fair and peaceful elections.”
He said a united prayer is one way to show “we are at one in safeguarding the elections against those planning to stain them.”
Father Teresito “Chito” Suganob, who was abducted by terrorists during the 2017 siege of Marawi City, underscored the importance of voter education for the referendum to be successful and said the people of Mindanao should be properly informed about why they will be voting for or against the law. 
Meanwhile, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting has been preparing for a referendum in Mindanao later this month to decide on the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law which will create a new Muslim autonomous region.
The Commission on Elections has given accreditation to the Church-based watchdog to monitor the plebiscite starting January 21.
Brother Johnny Cardenas, vice chairperson of the organisation, said that volunteers would monitor the polling stations.
Father Suganob, who heads an organisation that educates voters in the region, said, “If the plebiscite turns out successful, this could mean an end to armed conflict in Mindanao.”

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