Continuing Cordi people’s struggle for self-determination (2/3)

By BENEDICT SOLANG
www.nordis.net

SECOND OF THREE PARTS
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b) CPLA atrocities against the legal democratic mass movement led by CPA and deafening government silence that should indicate complicity

Towards the end of 1987, at the height of debate and critique by the progressive movement led by CPA; of CPLA backward and divisive narrow indigenist politics; CPLA murdered CBA Convenor and CPA Vice Chairperson Ama Daniel Ngayaan in October, and Abra CPA Coordinator Romy Gardo in November. The CPLA acknowledged responsibility for these murders. Other CPA related murders ascribed to CPLA and military operatives were Bontoc NGO staff Robert Estimada and Fernando Bragas in 1988, Ayangwa Claver in Tabuk in 1990, and Chris Batan in Sadanga in 1993. There were others as cited in the book. These and other atrocities of CPLA were also established at the 1998 Cordillera People’s Tribunal, by Cordillera civil society that tried CPLA for its crimes against the people. CPLA terrorism included murder, harassment and intimidation, and destruction of socio economic projects of people’s organizations like a coop and an ap tech (appropriate technology) renewable energy project in Tinglayan, Kalinga. And it is most striking that in all these atrocities and terrorism mostly during the time of Cory Aquino, government had been silent. Surely this should indicate government complicity.

c) CPLA integrates with the AFP and transforms into a socio economic group

From its heyday as armed paramilitary and political group being prominently coddled by government during the time of Corazon Aquino, and even by succeeding regimes, CPLA had progressively split into various grouplets, and always wrangling over position and /or finance, or as mercenaries for hire to politicians during elections or as security for land grabbers. At one stage during government handling of the CPLA in 2003, they were supposed to have been integrated with the AFP. But that did not terminate CPLA as it continued in endless various factions. Finally in its 2011 MOA with OPAPP, CPLA transformed into a socio economic group, the Cordillera Formation for Peace and Development (CFPD). This is again a form of pampering because it gives CPLA a hand in development funds, instead of these being given direct to regular government agencies or LGUs. Being transformed into a socio economic group should be the end of CPLA; but this continues to be questioned by other factions who claim to be CPLA, i.e group from Abra identified with the governor. CPA avers that whoever claims to be CPLA takes responsibility for past crimes and atrocities of CPLA. Until now the remains of Ama Daniel Ngayaan have yet to be retrieved by his family.

2. Regionalization and Regional Autonomy

The book has a sketchy write up on Regionalization and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR),which it ascribes to the meeting of Conrado Balweg and President Corazon Aquino at Mt. Data in 1986. And on Regional Autonomy the book cites only the 1990 plebiscite that rejected the first Organic Act, apparently with references only from CPLA, CBAd – CEB (Cordillera Bodong Administration – Cordillera Executive Board)..

But Regionalization and Regional Autonomy are core CPA advocacy. There is substantial past and updated documentation by CPA from its establishment in 1984 to the present, before even there was a CPLA.

a) Regionalization of the Cordillera

CPA launched its broad sweeping Cordillera- wide to national campaign on “Regionalization and Beyond” in 1985. Regionalization meant formation of the Cordillera region as one distinct region. “Beyond” referred to achieving Regional Autonomy at a later time. Thus Regionalization was a step towards Regional Autonomy. This had support from the grassroots peoples’ movement of peasants, youth-students, women, elders, professionals, and politicians like those in government agencies, LGUs and Congress. Broad support and consensus on Regionalization of the Cordillera was already achieved largely by the peoples’ movement way ahead of the Corazon Aquino – Conrado Balweg meet in Mt. Data in 1986. It only needed formalization by government. And Conrado Balweg stole the show from the mass movement (courtesy of his media friends as revealed in the book); with his 1986 so-called sipat (peace agreement) with Corazon Aquino where government gave full support to CPLA , and in turn Corazon Aquino signed in 1987, the Executive Order 220 on the Cordillera Administrative Region(CAR). This formalized Cordillera status as one administrative region from being previously divided with the eastern Cordillera as part of Cagayana valley region and the western section as part of the Ilocos region. Much earlier, the Cordillera region was already an undivided administrative territory as the undivided one Mountain Province.

CPA avers that on the Regionalization of the Cordillera, it is not right to credit two individuals (Corazon Aquino and Conrado Balweg) for what had been a work in progress before their time, and which was an achievement of the broad peoples movement.

In retrospect, as opportunist “peace “ negotiators: Conrado Balweg got political-financial-military support from government. And Aquino thought that she solved insurgency in the Cordillera with her CPLA deal; but the CPLA turned out to be a spent force and of no consequence. Whereas from government and even tabloid accounts, the NPA is ever present and remains entrenched in the Cordillera. Obviously, Corazon Aquino and succeeding regimes negotiated with the wrong party, and lt opportunistically mishandled the Cordillera situation and the indigenous people’s question.

b) Regional Autonomy in the Cordillera

The book affirms that CPA Regional Autonomy campaign was instrumental in the 1987 Constitution provision for Regional Autonomy in the Cordillera and in Muslim Mindanao. Regional Autonomy is the appropriate political form of the Right to Self Determination for Cordillera indigenous people or national minority, to combat national oppression by the ruling classes that control Philippine society. Self determination is not mere Cultural Autonomy or secession, as pushed by CPLA in its “Cordillera nation”. The Cordillera peoples movement has further qualified its program as Genuine Regional Autonomy to differentiate from bogus government Regional Autonomy, like the two Congress bills in 1990 and in 1998. These were both rejected in their respective plebiscites. A third house bill is being processed in the present Congress. The progressive mass movement will reject any Regional Autonomy bill that perpetuates any form of national oppression. Essential change in the pyramid social structure and end of ruling classes control of Philippine polity, is also necessary for the operation of Genuine Regional Autonomy.

c) Correction on Cordillera Peoples Alliance

The book unfairly refers to the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) as “(National Democratic Front Group)”- page 279. CPA is not NDF and this should be corrected. The Cordillera Peoples Alliance for the Defense of Ancestral Domain and for Self Determination is a legal multi sectoral federation of peoples organizations in the Cordillera. It was established in 1984 during a Cordillera Peoples Congress and has since led the militant Cordillera people’s movement in the struggle for self determination as national minority or indigenous people, and unites with the rest of the Filipino people for genuine sovereignty, democracy, and social justice. It is active in the progressive international indigenous peoples movement for solidarity of all peoples against oppression and exploitation, and for equality and a sound environment. # nordis.net

Continued next week

This paper was presented by the author as Panel Speaker from the Cordillera during the book launch OF TYRANTS AND MARTYRS by Manuel C. Lahoz last January 26, 2018 at the Bantayog ng Mga Bayani, Quezon City. — Ed

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