President Rodrigo R. Duterte clearly outlined that his peace policy will be inclusive for the realization of lasting peace in the countryside. It is because of this policy that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process formulated a comprehensive peace road map which seeks to involve all concerned stakeholders in peace building efforts that will translate to the overarching goal of realizing peace around the country in the future. Time and again, it has been repeatedly stated that peace is the foundation of development up to the grassroots level.
However, it has been obvious that there had been numerous interest groups which had been established to gain recognition from the government and eventually insist in their hardline position thereby putting the government into an awkward position until it abandons its compromising position because it cannot actually swallow the enormous demand of the ones demanding for it. The struggle for lasting peace which is being taken advantage by various armed groups has placed the government in a compromising position through decades of negotiations with whoever presented themselves as leaders of influential armed groups intending to topple the government. Ironically, such interest groups, including the Communist Party of the Philippines – New Peoples Army, never succeeded in their desire to takeover power and rule the nation like what had been done in communist controlled nations in different parts of the world.
In the Cordillera, it can be recalled that the Cordillera Bodong Administration – Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CBA-CPLA), after breaking away from the NPA, entered into a peace deal with the Philippine government which was signed on September 13, 1986 by former rebel priest Conrado Balweg and former President Corazon C. Aquino. It virtually ended the hostilities in the region which had claimed thousands of innocent lives for over decades of conflict apart from putting an end to the abuses of government on the people of the highlands. The leadership of the CBA-CPLA was in good hands until the untimely demise of Fr. Balweg on December 31, 1999. Self-proclaimed leaders with selfish and evil motives took over the CPLA and starting using the armed group for various illegal activities, particularly alleged extortion of informal settlers in Baguio and Benguet, tolerating informal settlers to intrude into private properties among others that earned the ire of local officials and declared some of its leaders as persona non grata in the city.
The fragmented CPLA existed through the years with numerous factions and each of the self-proclaimed leaders declaring themselves as the only ones respected by Cordillera elders until the renewed quest for autonomy emerged as the overarching agenda of the Regional Development Council (RDC), the authorized regional policy-making body, which served as a wakeup call for its leaders to unite.
On June 7, 2016, the unification of the CPLA factions was pursued but some of the embattled leaders with obvious interests in clinging to power walked out of the venue of the unification talks and refused to recognize the process that was crafted and undertaken by its elders and leaders. Now, the CPLA interest groups are going around the region recruiting and promising those who will join them of being part of a regional security force when federalism will be put in place.
Clearly, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza announced that no individual or group was authorized to recruit people to become members of a regional security force because it is only the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that is mandated by law to recruit enlisted personnel while it is the Philippine National Police (PNP) that recruits peace officers pursuant to the prescribed qualifications.
We strongly condemn the unauthorized, illegal and self-serving actuations of the self-style CPLA leaders, who were already expelled from the group but continue to do one-making activities for their own aggrandizement. Cordillerans should not trust the said types of individuals who refuse to adhere to the norms of the society and insist on their self-styled activities just to cling to the power that does not actually belong to them.
We already have the unified CPLA command that was recently recognized by the government as one of its partners in peace and development activities in the region that is why it is high time for us to move away from people who insist to be our elders but act not in accordance to our customary practices and traditions. We were taught to respect our elders but it seems these individuals were not taught good manners and right conduct that is why they are now creating trouble just to obviously ruin the gains of the region’s renewed quest for autonomy
The worst thing that the supposed respected individuals have done is to abandon the clamor for autonomy and instead ride on the federalism issue when the same has still a long way to go unlike autonomy which is already enshrined in the Constitution. Let us learn to value the lesson that were inculcated to our mind by our elders which is to do what is right and shy away from evil actions that tend to affect our integrity and credibility as a person and as a leader.