Continuing Cordi people’s struggle for self-determination (1/3)



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

A. Introduction

Our book launch today January 26th , Of Tyrants and Martyrs, is also a commemoration of the First Quarter Storm (FQS). Fascism was unleashed on January 26, 1970 in the violent dispersal of a peaceful rally in front of the Philippine congress, by the then nascent conjugal dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. Historic plunder and fascism by a full blown U.S. – Marcos Dictatorship would then afflict Philippine society, as memorialized in the book we launch today.

Today almost fifty years later from the historic FQS, we are again witness to the fascism of an emerging dictatorship, with a strongman President. Intrinsically divided Philippine society of the rich and the poor is essentially unchanged. The democratic classes and marginalized sectors including indigenous people, need to persevere in the struggle for genuine sovereignty, democracy, and social justice.

So fellow activists and concerned citizens, old and young, the continuing task of the present beacons urgently. But today for a while at this book launch, Of Tyrants and Martyrs, we reflect on the tyranny of the U.S. -Marcos Dictatorship and honor martyrs, with resolve that “never again” should tyranny befall our society. We also update on the particular Cordillera People’s struggle for self determination and for national democracy, whose beginnings are well portrayed in this book.

Thank you Manny and Angge for the opportunity to be part of this book launch. Good afternoon and greetings from the Cordillera Peoples Alliance to all gathered here today.

B. Remembrance of the past inspires the present and guides the future

Of Tyrants and Martyrs, ensures collective memory to prevail on the U.S. – Marcos dictatorship, and challenges us to continue the struggle of our martyrs so that their ultimate sacrifices with their life for our common aspirations is indeed not in vain.

The book recounts events of the early period of the present second National Democratic Revolution (NDR) which continued the unfinished revolution led by Bonifacio in 1896. The NDR flourished nationwide during the U.S.- Marcos Dictatorship. The Cordillera region was fertile ground with the explosive issues of cellophil, chico dams and mining; then articulated as “development aggression” especially that these were implemented with the full force of the dictatorship including its military. Historic defense of land and indigenous way of life with warrior tradition, combined with the progressive politics of national democracy which uphold the particularity of national minorities or indigenous people, yet affirm unity with the rest of the Filipino people. Thus the vibrant revolutionary situation in the Cordillera as portrayed in the book.

Moreover, the author’s comprehensive NDR framework address all facets of social change including armed struggle and the underground, as well as the open legal democratic and indigenous people’s movement. As noted in the book, New People’s Army (NPA) recruits swelled, even with ordained priests embracing armed struggle, among whom was Fr. Zacarias Agatep, one of the martyrs in the book; and Fr. Conrado Balweg a character by negative example in the Cordillera struggle. As commonly perceived then, it should be added that revolutionary governance also was exercised by the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CPDF) an allied member of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines(NDFP) in the Cordillera.

And the legal democratic people’s movement with organizers and leaders like Santiago Arce and Macliing Dulag , two of the martyrs in the book, reached a peak towards the end of the U.S.-Marcos Dictatorship; but then suffered setbacks for a time from the terrorism of the CPLA. The open legal people’s movement combined progressive organizing and politics with intrinsically pro people aspects of indigenous socio political systems and values. These build unity, nourish indigenous discipline of leadership which is not for self but for the ili (village)/tribe, and over all uphold the common good. Thus positive aspects of indigenous culture have persisted and transformed as necessary, while negative aspects like tribal wars are stopped or disintegrate as they no longer serve the people.

Also for a more complete portrayal of the Cordillera and the National Democratic Revolution, historical accounts show that parts of the Cordillera were as well involved in the 1896 first NDR, like south Benguet with recruits and leaders in the Katipunan; and Sagada that was massacred with 84 casualties “because of reported Katipunan activities” on July 11, 1898. The attack was a counter insurgency divide and rule military operation involving traditional tribal enemies of Sagada, led by Bontoc Spanish Commandant Eduardo Xandaro.

And so whether in the Cordillera or elsewhere in the Philippines, it is essentially the same National Democratic Revolution that needs to be pursued, towards its logical conclusion of a truly sovereign and democratic Philippines with social justice and ensured people’s welfare.

C. Specific topics addressed to clarify and complete story

For more substantial understanding, I wish to elaborate some points in the book. My perspective and limitation is from the legal national democratic mass movement, unlike the author’s comprehensive NDR context.

The topics I wish to address are : CPLA /Fr. Conrado Balweg and Regionalization /Regional Autonomy. And a needed correction on the Cordillera Peoples Alliance.

1. Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) and Fr. Conrado Balweg (Ka Ambo)

a) Political line on the Cordillera – The book gives detail on Fr. Conrado Balweg’s opportunist self-serving profile, like on finance and on sex (corruption of organization funds and impregnating a barrio lass). Thus he was meted disciplinary action by the CPP-NPA, then he split from the NPA and set up the CPLA. Essential to his split from the NPA, was Conrado Balweg’s backward and divisive, narrow indigenist political line on the Cordillera. To paraphrase, “the Cordillera is inhabited by indigenous people and should be set up as a Cordillera nation with the bodong indigenous political system as government”. This contradicts the progressive national democratic political line that Cordillera people have a particularity like on ancestral lands and on indigenous socio political systems that should be recognized , and exercised as part of the right to self determination; but they unite with the rest of the Filipino people as they are Filipinos and are part of the national struggle against the basic problems of Philippines society, for a truly sovereign and democratic Philippines.

The book reports that after the CPLA split from the NPA , a section of the Lumbaya company that initially split from the NPA went back to the NPA. And in the mass movement, some members of the organization of elders – Cordillera Bodong Association (CBA) that was a member of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), like Ama Yag ao allied with CPLA as a new organization – named Cordillera Bodong Adminisitration (CBAd). CPLA and CBAd were positioned by the Corazon Aquino regime in the structures of the Interim Cordillera Regional Autonomy (ICRA), specifically CBAD in the Cordillera Executive Board (CEB).

Whereas Cordillera Peoples Alliance and Cordillera Bodonog Association officers and organizers like Ama Daniel Ngayaan and Romy Gardo, as well as their grass roots membership sustained the progressive and uniting National Democratic political line on the Cordillera. They actively exposed and campaigned against the backward and divisive CPLA- CBAd political line to set up a “Cordillera nation” and institute the bodong as government. To paraphrase CPA advocacy: “there is no basis for a Cordillera nation, bodong has no capacity to be the government of the Cordillera and is neither applicable nor acceptable in many areas as there are other indigenous socio political systems in place, our particularity can be addressed through regional autonomy, and we are Filipinos and should build unity with other Filipinos in the continuing process of Filipino nation building”. This correct democratic, and uniting progressive political line on the Cordillera has prevailed.

CPLA eventually abandoned its indigenist “cordillera nation” and “bodong as government” line, and rode on the call for regional autonomy popularized by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance. #

Continued next week


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.