Special Report: CPLA factions no closer to uniting-A A +A
By JM Agreda
Saturday, July 14, 2012
MEMBERS of the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) who struggled for decades to pave way for the birth of the Cordillera region in 1987 are now feeling left out in the quest for autonomy and peace.
CPLA spokesperson Richard Kiaki questioned the closure of the Mt. Data Peace Accord, stressing it will usher hostilities in the region and result in the factionalization of the CPLA. This, as government made an agreement with a renegade group and not the genuine CPLA, he said.
CPLA political officer Melchor Balance iterated the group only recognizes former Bucloc, Abra mayor Mailed Molina as their incoming chairman and incumbent chairman Miguel Sugguiyao and not Arsenio Humiding. Humiding, they claimed, has long lost his identity as a member of the CPLA, much more “chairman” of the group.
Balance said they are surprised by the inclusion of Sadanga Mayor Gabino Gangangan and Marcelina Bahatan in the closure agreement initiated by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp).
Kiaki detailed that during the time of the late revolutionary priest Conrado Balweg, it was Molina who figured in the leadership with the current CPLA chairman Miguel Suguiyao and not Humiding.
He also said Molina was among the founders of the CPLA together with another original member and military operations head Leonardo Bun-as who are also allied with them, including Balweg’s son Jordan.
Their group also claimed to have in their possession the original peace tokens exchanged in Mt. Data.
It was only during the 18-year stint of Molina as mayor of Bucloc, Abra and his vying for the congressional seat that he relinquished the chairmanship of the CPLA to Sugguiyao, Kiaki said.
He added Humiding was never recognized as a chairman because he was never voted nor present in the regional command conference then in Kalinga and in fact was dismissed from the CPLA.
The CPLA members said they will induct Molina anew as chairman and Sugguiyao as vice chairman on July 15, Cordillera Day. This is to affirm they are the genuine CPLA members and the group President Benigno Aquino III must be dealing with.
With the comeback of Molina, the group hopes he will be able to talk with President Aquino and finally settle differences on the closure of the Mt. Data Peace Accord.
Other new designations and assignments will also be delegated during their regional command conference on Sunday.
The CPLA members said the continued struggle between factions will lead to the failure of the peace process similar to what happened in Mindanao and lamented the failure of government to all groups concerned.
“How can there be peace and closure when not all groups were consulted?” they said.
Not open to closure
Meanwhile, Opapp project management officer Ana Laylo said they approached the Sugguiyao and Molina faction first in their objective to achieve a closure of the Mt. Data Peace Accord but the CPLA officers declined.
“We did our homework researching for the truth behind the CPLA as we do not know the real issue. We recognize Chairman Humiding because they have shown us their legitimacy and their goal of transforming into a socio-economic group,” she said.
Balance, on the other hand, added Opapp previously reached out to them but since the closure agreement with the Humiding group, they have been left out in the cold.
“It’s like they placed us in the sidelines despite our legitimacy,” he said.
“We think they want the factions to fight through what we call as a divide and rule concept,” Kiaki said.
First year achievements
In a press statement from Opapp last July 4, first year anniversary of the signing of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) in the closure of the Mt. Data Peace Accord by CBA-CPLA and government, the agency said it is on the right track towards achieving the goals of the agreement.
Among the contents of the MOA are final disposition of arms and forces; economic reintegration of CPLA members; community development; inter-municipal and inter-barangay development projects; documentation of the CBA-CPLA struggle; and transformation of the CBA-CPLA into a socio-economic organization.
On its first year of implementation, Opapp Undersecretary Maria Cleofe Sandoval cited some of the achievements of the MOA by the changing of the CBA-CPLA of its name as Cordillera Forum for Peace and Development as registered under the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Sandoval also said 10 people’s organizations have been organized by the CPLA in the different provinces of the Cordillera Administrative Region to serve as conduits of livelihood projects to be initiated as a result of the MOA.
According to Opapp, in December 2011, funds were downloaded directly to local governments for implementation of various development projects for CBA-CPLA communities through the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan program or Pamana.
National Government allocated more than P219 million funds for the implementation of infrastructure component projects in the Cordillera including projects in agriculture, road improvements, livelihood, irrigation and water system among other projects.
As of May 2012, based on posted budget status in the Pamana program website, some P157,470,400 has been released to local governments since December but only a few of these project have been completed.
At present, there are some seven ongoing Pamana projects in CBA-CPLA areas.
What is notable, however, are the delays in the implementation of these projects despite fund release because as of July, only two projects have been completed. Opapp is also set to release some P62,317,60 for other remaining Pamana projects.
Among the infrastructure projects recently deemed completed are the concreting of junction to Caragasan Road in Alfonso Lista and will open to the community in two weeks while the rehabilitation of Dangadangan-Copcopit FMR in Bakun, Benguet, is 90 percent complete.
Soon to be implemented is the construction of 11 more infrastructure projects, Opapp said.
These infrastructure projects are spreading out mostly in Sadanga, Mt. province and Alfonso Lista in Ifugao, hometowns of Cordillera Bodong Administration secretary general and Mayor Gangangan and Chairman Humiding.
Laylo said a total of 1,221 CPLA members were profiled to determine socio-economic interventions appropriate for them as part of its economic reintegration.
“Out of the total number profiled, the CPLA affirmed 1,221 names as their official members who will be covered by the economic reintegration provision,” Usec. Sandoval added.
But these were negated by Kiaki and Balance stressing once again that CPLA members profiled by Opapp are not recognized by their leadership, particularly regional commanders and original CPLA members who were part of the Mt. Data Peace Accord.
Sandoval, meanwhile, said as part of social preparation, Enterprise Development Orientation activities were conducted by the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Social Welfare and Development and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority among the members of the 10 CPLA-organized POs in the six CAR provinces.
Disposition of Arms
On the final disposition of arms and forces, Sandoval said guidelines for the integration of 120 CPLA members into the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have been finalized for the approval of the Department of National Defense.
“The CPLA, on the other hand, has already firmed up its initial list of possible candidates for AFP enlistment,” she said, adding processing of candidates began in July and full training is expected to end by December.
These were also the same statements made by CPLA members Kiaki and Balance, claiming they are still implementing the integration program highlighted in Administrative Order 18 issued by then President Gloria Arroyo.
He said many CPLA members have joined the AFP but there are still many regular members yet to be integrated into the military.
Also part of the MOA is the documentation of the CBA-CPLA history to recount the struggles experienced and gains achieved by the group towards peace and development in the Cordillera.
“The draft, which was completed by CBA’s Fernando Bahatan, has been reviewed already by their group. It is now in the process of external review and final editing,” Sandoval shared.
Sandoval expressed optimism government and the CBA-CPLA will accomplish more entering the 2nd year of the MOA’s implementation.
More challenges ahead
“There have been challenges during the first year, but these have made us – the government and the CBA-CPLA – all the more patient and persistent in realizing the goals of the MOA. I hope that the entire government, as well as the public, will support us in these endeavors,” she added.
In an interview by Opapp forwarded to Sun.Star Baguio, CPLA chair Arsenio Humiding urged local government in the region to persevere in the implementation of the MOA.
“The key to the successful implementation of development projects is partnership,” he stated, stressing the CBA-CPLA will continue cooperating with concerned government agencies.
“Let us talk, patch up differences, agree on and implement what needs to be done for the communities of Cordillera,” he said.
Humiding added there have been many obstacles during the MOA’s first year. “The process was really difficult. We hope that before 2012 ends, implementation of all projects will be finished.”
However, the Molina and Sugguiyao group remains firm on its stand not to close the Mt. Data Peace Accord and continue with the Administrative Order 18 or their integration to the AFP and the fulfillment of livelihood packages then offered to them.
“How could you close the Mt. Data peace Accord when autonomy is not yet fulfilled?” the CPLA members said.
They said they remain supportive of the region’s quest for autonomy as it remains as bed rock of CPLA struggle in the 1980s but unless the government continues to deny their legitimacy there could never be an end or resolution to the CPLA struggle.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on July 14, 2012.