Mrs. Marcelina Bahatan, CBA, Message Completion Ceremony of the Army Integration Component under EO 49

Mrs. Marcelina Bahatan, CBA, Message on the Completion Ceremony of the Army Integration Component under EO 49 November 9, 2015, Camp Melchor F. Dela Cruz, Upi, Gamu, Isabela


(Greetings)

Allow me to bring you back to that historic event held at Mt. Data, Bauko, Mt. Province on September 13, 1986. This event has been popularly called the Mt. Data Sipat or the forging of a peace agreement between the government of then Pres. Corazon Aquino and the revolutionary group Cordillera Bodong Association and its armed group, the Cordillera People’s Leberation Army. Two significant things happened on this day. First, the chosen CBA elders submitted to the president a document entitled “Towards the Solution of the Cordillera Problem: A Statement of Position” which among others contained 26 specific demands for peace to reign in the Cordillera. The response of the president was for the position paper to be taken up in a formal peace negotiation. The peace negotiation resulted in the signing by the two peace panels of the Interim Cordillera Regional Administration or ICRA on June 9, 1987 at the Mansion in Baguio City and eventually the signing on July 15 the following month by the president of the Philippines of Executive Order No. 220. As we all know, EO 200 created what is now the Cordillera Administrative Region of CAR, bringing together into one region the provinces of Abra, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga-Apayao and Mt. Province and the city of Baguio. CAR was distinct from Region 1 and Region 2 to which the provinces and city mentioned above formerly belonged and under which they were minoritized in terms of decision making and resource allocation not to mention the imposition so-called development but socially destructive programs namely the Chico River Dam and CelloPhil logging projects in the provinces of Kalinga-Apayao and Abra respectively.

The second significant thing was the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between the New Armed Forces of the Philippines and the CPLA which provided for a cessation of hostilities between them, for the CBA-CPLA to consult with leaders in the provinces of Kalinga-Apayao, Mt. Province, Ifugao, Benguet, and Abra, not to disrupt nor interfere in the normal functions of duly constituted LGUs, not to impede or interfere in the regular rounds of duties of the PC-INP in the maintenance of peace and order, and to allow the completion of existing, on-going development projects in the area, except the CelloPhil and the Chico River projects. This MOA was honored by both parties for the past 28 years. In fact, for some time, the CPLA  and AFP conducted joint operations against the New Peoples Army. This MOA prevented the unnecessary loss of lives from the military and the CPLA sides and also from the civilians. And EO 220 has been so far the greatest contribution of the CBA-CPLA and government towards peace and development in the Cordillera.

The Memorandum of Agreement signed on July 4, 2011 between the CBA-CPLA and the government is another significant measure towards peace and development in the Cordillera. It provided for the closure of the CPLA as an armed group and its transformation into an unarmed economic group. It provided for the integration into the regular AFP of 120 out of the 1,099 members submitted but the CPLA leadership plus 48 more as per Longayban Agreement and the rest to be absorbed by DENR as Forest Guards or Bantay Gubat or to be given livelihood funds. Impliedly, there would be end to the 1986 MOA and the cessation of hostilities as there would be no more armed CPLA to speak about. In fact, the CPLA organized and registered themselves with the Securities and Exchange Commission as the Cordillera Forum for Peace and Development, Inc. of CFPDI, and also registered with SEC are  different people’s organization in the different organization in the different provinces through which the livelihood funds would be transferred eventually. Anybody now claiming to be CPLA and holding of keeping an unlicensed firearm should be arrested and dealt with in accordance with law.

At this point, let me say that the CBA holds the position that the fulfillment of all the 26 demands cannot be a precondition for the signing of the MOA of July 4, 2011 or for the closure of the CPLA as an organization by some individuals. For already in EO 220 the CBA-CPLA was ready in principle for the closure of the CPLA as an organization. It even participated in the past two plebiscites regarding Cordillera Regional Autonomy. The CBA also holds the position that the attainment of an autonomous region for the Cordillera will be through the process provided for in the 1987 constitution and no longer through peace negotiation. The peace negotiation was overtaken by the ratification of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. This was the reason why the result of the peace negotiation was an administrative region, not an autonomous one. Besides, why should some people impose on government specific demand number 2 which is the autonomy of the Ilongot-Bugkalot peoples in the Caraballo and the Itawis and Dumagats of the Sierra Madre if they themselves do not ask for it? Most of the 26 demands were addressed by the Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997 or IPRA. To insist that all the 26 demands must all be first fulfilled before the signing and implementation of the July 4, 2011 MOA and EO 49 is ignorance of past realities and sign of a confused mind. At best the 26 specific demands were statements of position as the title of the document clearly states or as proposals as the sentence just before their enumeration also states.

And by way of a reminder, let me say that at least four provisions of the July 4, 2011 MOA and pertinent agreements have not yet been done. First, the legacy book of the story of the struggles of the CBA-CPLA which was finished and edited long time ago has not yet been printed and launched. Second, some surrendered firearms by CPLAs have not yet been paid. Third, some finished community projects have not yet been turned over to the intended beneficiaries. And fourth the five-year development strategy has not yet been started. With regards to the fourth provision, the CBA submitted to OPAPP an initial listing of projects for its consideration.

With regards to the CPLA integration provision in the MOA, its implementing rules and regulations as well as EO 49, the CBA affirmed that the government, the military and the 5th ID in particular have done or completed their responsibility. No less than 168 CPLA as per MOA and as per Longayban Agreement were integrated. The AFP was even more generous and understanding for integrating a much higher number of Cordillerans into the regular AFP aside from the CPLAs. For this job well done, we give the 5th ID our heartfelt thanks and congratulations even as we gladly join in today’s celebration.

Thank you all and good day.