LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The integration of the Cordillera People's Liberation Army (CPLA) into the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will soon be realized.
CPLA chairman Arsenio Humiding announced that the final validation of members of the CPLA is set and a masterlist of candidates for AFP integration has been submitted making way for the final stage; inclusion to the Philippine Army as recognized soldiers of the government army. “Ito na ang bunga ng ating proyekto, ang integration sa AFP.”
The CPLA has 80 candidates who passed a rigorous five-month physical and medical screening comprised of CPLA members and their next of kin 36 years old and below.
Humiding said the age group has been deliberated on for many months and was thought best to be applied if only to give CPLA integrees a chance to enjoy full benefits of being a government soldier. “At the age group we have chosen, they will enjoy full benefits of pension and separation pay from the AFP.”
The 168 chosen CPLA entries to the AFP are seen to complete Administrative Order 18 signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on the integration of 48 CPLA members into the AFP with provisions of livelihood projects to the CPLA while the other 120 entries are results of the recently signed Memorandum of Agreement between government and CPLA, bringing all legitimate members into the government fold.
Humiding said the process started for the CPLA on January 4 and took roughly five months to complete.
Those chosen will move on to undergo a three-month AFP training before graduating to become members of the government army, a dream the CPLA has had 25 years ago in the historic Mt. Data 1986 Sipat agreement under the presidency of Corazon Aquino.
The original members of the CPLA was composed of the Lumbaya command of the New People’s Army, the first company in the country made up of purely Indigenous Peoples.
The group has since severed its ties with the NPA sometime in the mid ‘80s and has entered into a peace agreement with the government in 1986.
The CPLA signed a pact with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Oppap) which dictates a demobilization, disarmament and reintegration of CPLA members into the mainstream of society, paving the way for the transformation of the CBA-CPLA into a socio-economic organization.
The CPLA received P242 million to fund various projects all over the region as part of the Pamana program to fund various projects for development in the region.
Humiding said the AFP, the Philippine Army, and the 5th Infantry Battalion (5IB) as well as the Opapp were key players into seeing the integration takes place. “We would like to thank them for their support.”
On June 26 at the 5th IB headquarters, the integration process will start; the AFP will then start its own screening process and train the CPLA candidates.
Humiding said that although the program is special for the CPLA, AFP rules and regulations will have to apply for all candidates and stressed, “We cannot bend the AFP.”
Admittedly, Humiding said there have been head-on collisions on processes at hand but assured all have been discussed. “We are sure we will be able to talk further on this if needed.”
CPLA members who will not be part of the AFP integration will be assigned to work as forest guards for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources or be part of livelihood projects distributed all over the region, divided into the 1,200 recognized CPLA members.