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


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D. Update on Militant Cordillera Mass Movement

The militant cordillera mass movement has almost fifty years of spontaneous and organized action, starting with the 1971 Cordillera Congress for National Liberation in Bontoc. And it has prevailed for more than thirty years led by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance since its establishment in 1984 also in Bontoc. The Cordillera people’s movement, with peak and low points, try to keep pace with developments in the national democratic mass movement.

The Cordillera people’s movement is for self determination as national minorities or indigenous people, to end their national oppression by the ruling classes in Philippine society. Their national oppression are manifest in oppressive land laws that violate ancestral land rights, discrimination, violation of indigenous socio political systems , commercialization of culture, militarization, and historic government neglect. With government and the ruling classes’ historic regard of the Cordillera as a resource base to be exploited, development aggression with plunder of patrimony and the environment is a continuing people’s issue

Regional Autonomy in the Cordillera as the option for political self determination builds self reliance and strength on socio-economic and political – cultural aspects from the village to higher levels. But such comprehensive empowerment or self determination as Cordillera people can be achieved only if there is also fundamental social change in the national polity to end control by the ruling classes and their foreign masters of Philippine society. Thus Regional Autonomy in the Cordillera is now qualified as Genuine Regional Autonomy (GRA), to ensure that all features of national oppression are indeed eliminated. And GRA also requires attainment of national democracy with genuine sovereignty, democracy, and social justice.

A constant frustration in comprehensive development work, is when socio – economic and political – cultural self determination achieved at the village level, is undermined or even disintegrates when militarization or mining or energy projects come in and wreak havoc; with bribes, intrigues, suspicions, divisiveness and promote self serving individual interest over common good. These happen because national government promotes the interest of the entrenched ruling classes and their foreign masters. Thus the need to decisively change the Philippines pyramid social structure, and for majority of the basic masses to assume their just democratic space in society.

Highlight of current issues and continuing campaigns include the following:

1. Human Rights and anti fascist campaign

Trumped up charges have been filed by the military against Cordillera development workers mostly women. OPLAN Kapayapaan counter insurgency operations result in militarized communities, with harassment of villagers especially officers of people’s organizations. There are also now restrictions on community development work of NGOs who have been serving these interior villages for almost forty years but are now prevented from entering their community project areas. There have been AFP bombing and burning of forested areas that destroy the environment and affect agriculture and livelihood. And there were past EJK (extrajudicial killings) of development workers and community leaders.

2. DLLR – Defense of Land Livelihood and Resources

The campaign against development aggression and plunder was systematized in 1994 as DLLR. These are at present on destructive mining and energy projects of dams and geothermal. The bold initiatives by past DENR Secretary Gina Lopez against destructive mining did not prosper when she was replaced. Thousands of hectares for mining exploration have been granted by the new DENR Secretary Cimatu to Cordillera Exploration Company, Makilala Mining Company, and Eltopan Resources Company. Bigger operations are being eyed for SN Aboitiz existing hydropower projects in Ambukalo, Binga and Magat dams as well as construction of 3 mega dams in Alimit, Ifiugao. Along the Chico river in Kalinga the 52 MW hydroelectric dam project of the Lorenzo Ruiz Builders has been suspended pending the settlement of protests and completion of FPIC processes. Other projects include a 37 MW hydropower project along the Tanudan river, and 17 MW hydropower project along the Pasil river. And a P5.5 B Lower Chico Flood Control Mega Dike Project has also been suspended pending completion of requirements and needed consultations.

3. SDSD – Self determined sustainable development for socio – economic needs

The track record of Cordillera activist NGOs and POs on self determined sustainable development for almost forty years, to improve livelihood and basic community services have been sustained, and have prospered with trailblazing initiatives. These are in programs that build capacity with selected projects on sustainable agriculture and appropriate technology, community based health, community based disaster response, and over all increased consciousness on the orientation and discipline of self determined sustainable development (sdsd). This is development by the people with their active participation for their maximum welfare. Resources are accessed, nourished and developed for present and future people’s basic needs. And community level development initiatives should combine with national industrialization and over all economic programs in the Cordillera for people’s welfare and national development.

4. GRA – Genuine Regional Autonomy on political self determination

Genuine Regional Autonomy is possible only if there is no more national oppression, i.e its manifestations are decisively addressed, whether in a unitary or in a federal system of government. The present third bill in Congress for Regional Autonomy in the Cordillera is criticized precisely because it does not ensure ancestral land rights and indigenous socio political systems, development aggression and plunder of the patrimony continues, and the integrity of the Cordillera region as one indivisible entity is not guaranteed because it allows that whatever provinces that vote for it will compose the region thus even if not the whole Cordillera. The bill is also criticized as mainly on positioning in structures and accesss to finance, which may just go to waste anyway in view of historic grave bureaucratic corruption in government. And the big national problems that should be addressed are the basic problems of Philippine society to end foreign and elite ruling classes control. Government system whether federal or unitary will be appropriately settled once there is genuine sovereignty, democracy, and social justice.

5. GRP-NDFP Peace Talks to Resume for just and lasting peace

The option of peace talks, instead of the battlefield, to address basic problems of Philippine society and attain just and lasting peace has been a long and tortuous route, but has achieved concrete results. The ongoing peace talks that President Duterte unilaterally terminated should resume. The people’s movement in the Cordillera persistently calls on the GRP and NDFP to harness statesman qualities, to address the sovereign and democratic social justice interest of the Filipino people; and to assiduously pursue the Peace Talks to its conclusion.

In the Cordillera there has been broad popular support and participation during Peace Talks Consultations, with GRP and NDFP representatives. These were initiatives co sponsored by People’s Organizations, Church leaders, LGU representatives, and other Peace stakeholders. Organized sectors and communities presented their points on socio – economic, cultural – political, and particular indigenous peoples concerns like on ancestral lands and indigenous socio political systems. These should be considered in the Peace Talks agenda on Socio Economic and on Political Reforms.

E. Persevere in militant people’s struggle to advance the Cordillera people’s movement for self determination and for national democracy

Of Tyrants and Martyrs, is a rich chronicle of tyranny during the U.S.-Marcos Dictatorship; and so are the deeply humane stories of the martyrs portrayed.

Read and be challenged to respond to the present situation of a rapidly transformed regime, from a self proclaimed “leftist” and “socialist”; to being a U.S. – Marcos Dictatorship regime that maintains Philippine society status quo of elite ruling class control together with their foreign masters. President Duterte has proclaimed his friendship with President Trump of the U.S.A., and declared all out war against revolutionaries and supporters earnestly seeking basic changes in Philippine society.

More than ever, the challenge is to persevere in the militant people’s struggle. The martyrs in the book, and all the heroes enshrined in this Bantayog ng mga Bayani monument, have set a standard of service and sacrifice. We should do no less in the context of our own circumstances. #

The author, Benedict P. Solang, from Sagada, an activist, author of Dapay Discourse – Uno and other papers on the Cordillera environment and politics, he passed away a short while after delivering this paper as the panel speaker from the Cordillera at the book launch of ‘OF TYRANTS AND MARTYRS’ by Manuel C. Lahoz on January 26, 2018, at the Bantayog ng Mga Bayani, Quezon City. — Ed


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