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BAUKO, Mountain Province – Surviving signatories to the Mount Data peace agreement and autonomy advocates challenged President Rodrigo Duterte to fulfill the government’s commitment under the said agreement by certifying the pending autonomy bills in both chambers of Congresses an urgent administration measure for the eventual realization of the aspirations of Cordillerans to be autonomous.
Leonardo Bun-as, one of two surviving signatories to the said peace agreement, stated that it was former President Corazon C. Aquino that reached out to the Cordillera Bodong Administration-Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CBA-CPLA) for peace talks that eventually resulted to the formal signing of the historic agreement and now, it should be President Duterte that will fulfill the government’s obligation to the same with the issuance of the required certification that the pending autonomy bills is a priority administration that must be acted upon the soonest.
He pointed out that the CBA-CPLA had been fighting for the rights of the Cordillerans over their land, for the preservation and protection of the rich resources of the State within their domain and the right of the people to self-determination.
Bun-as, together with other personalities who were witnesses to the historic signing of the Mount Data peace agreement, such as Sadanga Mayor Gabino Ganggangan, CBA chairman Engr. Andres Ngao-I among others, attended the simple but meaningful commemoration of the Mount Data peace agreement that was held at the Mount Data hotel compound here Monday.
The surviving signatory to the peace agreement asserted that the motivation of the CPLA then was to fight for the rights and welfare of the Cordillerans unlike in the communist movement where the primary purpose of the Communist Party of the Philippines–New Peoples Army (CPP-NPA) is to topple and takeover the government.
Bun-as claimed that the surviving signatories to the said peace agreement want to witness the establishment of the autonomous government which is a product of their armed struggle in the past against the abuses of the government such as in the case of the logging concessions in Abra and the foiled put up of the Chico dams from Sabangan, Mountain Province up to Tabuk City, Kalinga.
According to him, the CPLA parted ways with the CPP-NPA because of the differences in ideologies that allowed the group to be able to pursue the peace negotiations with the Aquino administration until the signing of the historic Mount Data peace agreement on September 13, 1986 right in the Mount Data hotel.
He admitted that the CPLA under the leadership of former rebel priest Conrado Balweg was hesitant on their security during the signing of the peace agreement but they pinned their hopes on the sincerity of both parties in the fulfillment of their respective obligations enshrined in the said agreement.
For his part, Mayor Ganggangan disclosed that former President Aquino sent his brother-in-law former Senator Agapito ‘Butz’ Aquino to Bugnay, Tinglayan, Kalinga to extend the government’s to open the peace talks with them that paved the way for the conduct of a series of negotiations to thresh out the issues and concerns that have to be ironed out to attain lasting peace in the region.
He stipulated that the 26-point talking points that had been laid down by the CBA-CPLA actually focused on federalism and autonomy that paved the same to be finalized in another negotiation that transpired in Sadanga prior to the formal exchange of peace tokens and the signing of the peace agreement that was held at the Mount Data hotel.
The local chief executive raised concern on the failure of President Duterte to issue the required certification that the pending autonomy bills in both chambers of Congress indicate that the same are priority administration measures that need appropriate action for the realization of the long overdue clamor of Cordillerans for self-governance.
He questioned why the President was very vocal on his support to the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) but is lukewarm on the clamor of Cordillerans for similar treatment for the eventual establishment of the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR) as both Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillerans have been given special treatment by the Constitution as the regions that need to have the autonomous regions.
Earlier, the House committees on local government and ways and means approved the consolidated bill for the establishment of the CAR and the same is now pending with the House committee on appropriations chaired by Benguet caretaker congressman and Anti-Crime and Terrorism through Community Involvement and Support (ACT-CIS) Party-list Rep. Eric Yap.
The counterpart bill of the consolidated autonomy bill in the Senate was authored by Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri under Senate Bill (SB) 1232 and is now pending with the Senate committee on local government awaiting the action of the House on the consolidated measure.
By Dexter A. See