GAMU, Isabela — The Philippine government through the 5th Infantry Division (ID) of the Philippine Army (5ID, PA) marks the end to the military integration component of the Cordillera peace process with the signing of a Joint Declaration stating its successful implementation and completion.
5th ID Commander Major General Lysander A. Suerte and Cordillera Bodong Administration (CBA) president Marcelina Bahatan signed the Joint Declaration in a ceremony held on November 9, 2015 at the 5th Infantry Division, Camp Melchor F. Dela Cruz in Upi, Gamu, Isabela.
The Joint Declaration aims to recognize the “success of the peace process as envisioned in the 1986 Mt. Data Peace Accord” and to “acknowledge and highlight the completion of the military integration of CPLA (Cordillera People’s Liberation Army) members’ sons, daughters, and/or next of kin” who are now fully integrated in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The Declaration further establishes the commitment from both parties to “endeavor and sustain the gains of peace and unity in the Cordillera Administrative Region and preserve the condition towards progress and prosperity.”
“The CBA affirms that the government, the military, and the 5th ID in particular have done or completed their responsibility… The AFP was even more generous and understanding for integrating a much higher number of Cordillerans in the regular AFP aside from the CPLAs,” Bahatan says in her message during the ceremony.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Teresita Quintos Deles witnessed the event alongside Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) chair and Ifugao Governor Denis Habawel, regional leaders, officials from the national and local governments, elders from Cordillera communities, civil society representatives, and the families and friends of the AFP integrees.
From weapons of war to instruments of peace
Executive Order (EO) no. 49 issued by President Benigno S. Aquino III in 2011 mandated the implementation of the government and the CBA-CPLA’s Memorandum of Agreement “Towards the CPLA’s Final Disposition of Arms and Forces and its Transformation into a Potent Socio-Economic Unarmed Force” or Closure Agreement, including the winding down of the integration of former CPLA members into the Army.
Deles says in her keynote speech that the signing of the Closure Agreement signaled the start of an “essential shift” of the CPLA from being “an armed group with a command structure that has commanders as leaders and combatants as members” to a “potent, socio-economic unarmed force that can directly improve the lives of their families and communities, and influence the pace and direction of development as well as the state of democratic governance in the Cordillera.”
“With this agreement, our partners in CPLA commit to replace their weapons of war with instruments for development and peace,” Deles adds.
Sec. Deles notes that the late former Pres. Cory Aquino acknowledged “the struggle of the Cordilleras as represented by the CPLA was real, genuine and legitimate”.
“I call on the integrees, who are now members of our Armed Forces, to live up to the legacy of your parents and serve this country with pride and dignity. We know you will be as brave and gallant as your forebears in the CPLA and we thank you and I salute you for what we know as faithful service to our country,” the peace adviser says further.
Brig. Gen. Raul M. Farnacio, in behalf of Lt. Gen. Eduardo M. Año, AFP, also thanks the integrees “for enriching us with your sense of purpose, your warrior spirit, and your commitment to stand alongside the rest of us in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”
Data from the 5th ID show that since 2001, a total of 1,564 former CPLA members were integrated into the military — 661 of them enlisted personnel, 888 as civilian auxiliaries, with 15 appointed as officers.
“The ceremonies mark the day when CPLA as an armed group ceases to exist, and, henceforth, all the other groups claiming to still be active members of CPLA shall be dealt with as police matter subject to the full force of law,” Deles notes.
In his message as Cordillera RPOC chair and member of the Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC), Habawel also shares the “framework by which the region will move forward”.
“It was the position taken by the RDC that we will implement the provision of the Closure Agreement in regard to the erstwhile CPLA converting themselves into the Cordillera Forum for [Peace and] Development,” he enthused.
The CPLA has now been transformed into the Cordillera Forum for Peace and Development, with its members at the local level either organized into people’s organizations, employed as forest guards, or integrated into the AFP.