BANGUED, Abra – More than 7,000 Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA) combatants in the different parts of the region, neglected and left out by the government in the controversial closure agreement it entered with the Cordillera Forum on Peace and Development (CFPD) in July 2011, are now lobbying for recognition from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).
Unified CPLA Chairman and Vice Governor Ronald Balao-as claimed the group has a complete registry of the combatants in Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifogao, Kalinga, and Mountain Province. It is why the half-baked closure initiated by the CFPD is also in violation of the Manabu agreement, considering that the quest for regional autonomy has not yet been realized.
“We fully support the peace initiatives of President Rodrigo Duterte that is why we are trying our efforts to reach out to the OPAPP through Secretary Jesus Dureza for us to open our communication lines and to talk about peace. We simply want to put things in their proper perspectives considering that the closure that was done by the CFPD was not a product of consultations with the CPLA founders and leaders in the past which is now the cause of a slight conflict,” vice Governor Balao-as stressed.
The CPLA official explained that the September 13, 1986 sipat between former rebel priest Fr. Conrado Balweg of the CPLA and former President Corazon C. Aquino was simply a gesture of peace that resulted to the prevalence of a ceasefire between the armed group and government forces. The Manabu agreement in December that same year contained the agreements between Cordillera elders and government representatives led by former Vice President Salvador Laurel, former Senator Agapito Butch Aquino, and ranking military generals on how to put on the ground the 26-point agenda where regional autonomy and federalism were the major demands.
Balao-as called on the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to respect the existing provisions of the Manabu peace agreement, which was never been repealed or amended, by recognizing the existence of the CPLA combatants who were left out in the questionable closure agreement. This would prevent the occurrence of conflicts that could result to untoward incidents leading to loss of lives or damage to properties which they actually do not want to happen in the first place without being provoked.
According to him, the neglected CPLA combatants have been part of their struggle for the realization of peace in the Cordillera but the group is questioning the wisdom by which they were eased out of the closure agreement, which was not even confirmed by the elders who entered into the Manabu agreement and thereby casting doubts on the real purpose of those who facilitated the doubtful closure agreement with the Aquino administration.
He underscored the neglected CPLA combatants were willing to help government in the implementation of its anti-insurgency campaign and Bantay Gubat program, among others, to be beneficial for the realization of lasting peace in the countryside. They ask not be unduly harassed and intimidated by the police and military because such actuations could result to untoward incidents that will affect the prevailing peace and order regionwide.