TABUK CITY, Kalinga – The various factions of the fragmented Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA) were able to reach a breakthrough in the ongoing reunification process.
Engr. Andres Ngao-i, president of the Cordillera Bodong Administration (CBA), said informal meetings were done by the different leaders of the various CPLA factions during the sidelights of the one-day Knowledge Sharing on Autonomy, Federalism and Peace for the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) held at the Makati-based Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Conference Center and their discussions were fruitful amidst the tense situation and the direction is reunification of the group.
“We just need space and time for the leaders to talk things over among themselves. We do not need to rush things because haste makes waste and we do not want to bungle the golden opportunity given to us by the present administration to get our acts together,” Ngao-i stressed.
The CBA is the political arm of the CPLA while the CPLA is the armed group of the CBA and both groups were instrumental in the realization of the 1986 Mount Data peace agreement that paved the way for the establishment of the CAR by virtue of Executive Order No. 22o issued by former President Corazon C. Aquino on July 15, 1987.
It will be recalled that during the gathering of the pioneers of autonomy at the Mount Data Hotel, Bauko, Mountain Province last April 24, 2017, leaders of the different CPLA groups heeded the call of Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza for unity among the autonomy stalwarts to be able to get the attention of President Rodrigo Duterte for his support for the region’s autonomy.
Among the CPLA leaders that continued the informal talks among themselves were Abra Vice Gov. Ronald Balaw-as, former Bucloc mayor and CPLA chairman Mailed Molina, Bagumbayan Punong Barangay Andrew Cos-agon and the Conrado Deza group now led by Juanita Chulsi.
According to him, there is already a ‘win-win formula’ which he is planning to discuss with the leaders of the CPLA factions but he wants them to first consult with their members to avoid further conflicts once the reunification will be finalized anytime.
He narrated that the group went into various splits over the past three decades and their leaders were able to successfully handle the situation because the communication lines between them have been kept open and that their primary objective is the realization of an autonomous region for the Cordillera.
The major condition of the CBA-CPLA in their 26-point agenda that was discussed by both the CBA and government panels during the peace talks was for the government to grant the Cordillera regional autonomy.
Ngao-i admitted the negotiations for the grant of autonomy by the Cory administration was overtaken by events since the Constitution that was prepared by the Constitutional Convention was ratified in February 1987 which included the provision that the establishment of the autonomous regions in the Cordillera and Mindanao should be vested in the legislative branch of government and not through executive issuance.