Gamu, Isabela – One hundred fifty-eight (158) members and next of kin of former rebel group Cordillera Peoples' Liberation Army (CPLA) on Wednesday officially took oath as soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), having completed the army integration program, a component of the 2011 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the government and the Cordillera Bodong Administration (CBA)-CPLA.
The event was complemented with the turn-in of 186 firearms of the former rebel group.
Undersecretary Maria Cleofe Gettie Sandoval of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) noted the completion of the army integration program and turnover of firearms as significant achievements of the peace process and accomplishments for the government “whose task has been to ensure our faithfulness to the commitments we had signed…”
The 2011 MOA is geared towards the CBA-CPLA's final disposition of arms and forces and its transformation into an unarmed, socio-economic entity that will contribute to peace and development in the Cordillera region.
In a message delivered on Wednesday during the graduation ceremonies of army integrees, Sandoval noted the initial findings of a focus group discussion (FGD) with the integrees indicating a transformation in various aspects.
“Mas lumakas, mas tumibay ang loob, mas tumatag ang paniniwala sa sarili, mas lumalim ang kakayahang makipagkapwa-tao, at higit sa lahat, mas nabuo ang kahandaang unahin ang mga mamamayan bago ang sarili at maging tunay na lingkod ng bayan (have become physically stronger, have grown in inner strength, have more formidable faith in self, have deeper capacities for kinship with fellowmen, and most specially, more capacitated and prepared to think for the sake of the people first rather than self gains and more prepared to be genuine public servants).”
“These are all worthwhile accomplishments that are not easy to achieve in a lifetime. Palakpakan po natin ang ating mga graduates sa matagumpay nilang pagdating sa yugtong ito ng kanilang buhay (Let’s congratulate the graduates for successfully reaching this chapter in their lives),” Sandoval enthused.
For his part, AFP Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista, the ceremony’s guest of honor and speaker, welcomed the new soldiers in his speech.
“Tinatanggap namin kayo ng buong puso sa Hukbong Sandatahan ng Pilipinas. Kayo ngayon ay ganap nang mga sundalo (We wholeheartedly accept you all to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. You are all official soldiers now).”
Bautista also told the integrees that much is expected of them as graduates trained in excellence and virtue. The general reminded the new soldiers that their mandate is to protect the people and the country and that part of their responsibilities as members of the army is to uphold non-partisanship, discipline, and respect for human rights.
Sandoval thanked all partners, Bautista and 5th Infantry Division (5ID) commander Major Gen. Joel Ibanez for their commitment to the peace agenda of the President and support to the CBA-CPLA peace track.
“It has been a worthwhile partnership, overall, which we hope will continue in the service of building a sustainable peace in the Cordillera,” Sandoval said.
To partners CBA and CPLA, the Undersecretary looked forward to “a new beginning where you lead as empowered, empowering, enlightened, and enlightening presence in the Cordillera’s pursuit of peace.
Among the integrees, a woman, Private Wendy Cacbet of Paracelis, Mt. Province was awarded First Honor. Three more women are on the Top Ten – Privates Marichu Edduba (3rd) Lhariza Joy Gannisi (4th) and Marites Polanco (8th).
The army integration program of CPLA began in 2001 with the issuance of Administrative Order 18. In 2011, the government’s MOA with the CBA-CPLA again included army integration as an option for socio-economic reintegration. #