BAGUIO CITY – The Cordillera Bodong Administration – Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CBA-CPLA) submitted to the government’s independent peace panel its 6-point agenda for the realization of genuine peace and development in the region.
Unified CPLA chairman and Abra Vice governor Ronald Balao-as pointed out that history will show that the CBA-CPLA had long advocated the attainment of peace in the region and that the group had greatly contributed to the attainment of peace regionwide.
It can be recalled that in 1986, the CPLA broke away from the Communist Party of the Philippines – New Peoples Army – National Democratic Front CPP-NPA-NDF) to pursue a different path, a non-violent, peaceful path, which eventually resulted to the signing of the historic Mount Data ‘sipat’ agreement that was a prelude to the establishment of a ‘bodong’ or peace agreement.
He claimed since then, the CBA-CPLA has transformed itself from a breakaway rebel group to aggressive peace advocates, a vanguard of peace and guarantor of the Cordillera bodong or peace agreement.
“To further pursue peace, the CBA-CPLA has recently fixed internal squabbles among its members in order to pursue peace. With no more internal conflicts, their energy will be focused to the attainment of regional autonomy and safeguarding genuine and sustainable peace in the region,” Balao-as stressed.
The group stipulated that one of its 6-point peace agenda is that peace building initiatives must be centered on the establishment of an autonomous region in the Cordillera and autonomy is the only effective medium to address all grievances of indigenous peoples in the region making it the only key to just and lasting peace in the Cordillera, thus, autonomy should be in the eart of all peace building initiatives regionwide.
According to him, the root of the Cordillera conflict is the marginalization and oppression of minority groups in the region brought about by poverty, unstable rule of law, and violations of human rights and the prevalent feeling of marginalization and oppression was capitalized by the CPP-NPA-NDF to recruit among the indigenous peoples in the region.
The CBA-CPLA also suggested that peace building measures should be all inclusive considering that the root of many conflicts across the world can be traced to exclusion, thus, by working to lessen the distance that exists between the State and the Cordillera people will lead to the realization of the building of a durable peace as peace does not come in pieces since it comes in whole and everybody is a stakeholder.
Balao-as emphasized that peace building measures can only be achieved under an atmosphere of mutual trust and confidence considering that the effort to build peace is a 2-way street of trust and confidence wherein people in both sides of the peace table should build confidence among themselves if they really want peace.
However, in order to achieve trust and confidence, he underscored that huge things must start to happen to break the barrier of suspicion which in the Cordillera setting has been nurtured by marginalization.
The CBA-CPLA wants the integration of indigenous political structures and systems, especially the bodong in the peace initiatives to be pursued by the region, considering that to attain genuine peace in the region, the indigenous political structures and systems must be incorporated in the process to be utilized in the governance, especially at the village level and it must also recognize the ‘ili’ or village as a socio-political unit vis-à-vis the barangay which is the basic unit of local governance for the national government.
The group is aggressively pushing for the recognition of the CBA-CPLA as a member of the Regional Development Council (RDC) and the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) because after the dissolution of the Cordillera bodies like the Cordillera Executive board (CEB), Cordillera Regional Assembly (CRA) and the CBA, the group was again marginalized and it was deprived from contributing to mainstream policy-making in the region.
Balao-as emphasized such a move to disregard the CBA-CPLA is not only impractical but also contemptible.
Lastly, the group is proposing for the establishment of a regional security force to act as guarantor of the Cordillera bodong wherein the CPLA will be converted into a regional security force to work alongside the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the maintenance of peace and security regionwide.
He asserted that the CPLA as an indigenous security force is best suited to police and maintain peace and order in the region due to their deep understanding of the indigenous culture and tradition of their own localities and the various tribes composing the Cordillera makes it dangerous to generalize policies, as such, it is necessary to localize peace efforts considering that a peace initiative in Abra would not necessarily apply in Baguio or anywhere in the region.