SHALL we still continue with the struggle for Cordillera autonomy now that the movement for a federalized Philippines is gaining momentum under the Duterte administration? This question is now pressed upon the attention of all sincere Cordillerans, especially those who have poured blood and sweat, personally or surrogately, individually or organizationally.
At the forefront to react to this question of the moment are those who were mandated to handle the government of CAR (Cordillera Administrative Region), namely, the CRA (Cordillera Regional Assembly), the CEB (Cordillera Executive Board) and its directional think-tank, the CBA (Cordillera Bodong Administration) and the CPLA (Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army) assisting under oath to see to it that the march to autonomy is not derailed or perfunctorily pursued, because they know that the Mt. Data ceasefire was just that, a ceasefire. What is aimed at is a permanent peace and order to assure the attainment of a humanly satisfying socio-economic development. Frankly speaking, the autonomous status was not envisioned by Fr. Balweg to last forever; it could be dissolved as soon as the projected development would have elevated the social-economic life of indigenous Cordillerans in par with their Filipino mainstream brothers or co-citizens, not like before, where they were treated as “second-class” citizens. Fr. Conrado Mangoag Balweg tasted or saw enough of this treatment, even by ministers of the Church. Fortunately for Cordillera, he was sensitive to what he sensed and reacted to find a solution, then worked and fought to attain it, at least to start the ball rolling. He took the risk and succeeded. With a cooperating partner in the tango in the timely person of President Cory, Ka Ambo got Cory’s potent signature. The CAR was born, the signed EO 220 was supposed to be its road map to be followed. This EO, an Executive Order with a legislative fiat, like the presidential decrees of a previous legal luminary president, contained in its provisions the basics of a charter that Fr. Balweg, alias Ka Ambo, envisioned to be put in place. The provisions contained what we wanted as the substantial qualities of the autonomous region for us.
The Secretary, who asked “why did you reject autonomy in the referendum conducted?”, got right away what we desired to impart to the National Government, namely, that what the Cordillera voters rejected in the two past referenda were the proposed organic acts, not at all the idea of autonomy or relative self-governance itself in order to be freed from the suffocating clutch of the National Government in Manila. He patently showed strong sympathy to our cause and encouraged us to work faster and more intently. In fact, he said he intended to visit the CAR but not necessarily Baguio.
In response to his enthusiasm, we assured him that the indomitable CPLA men and women will mobilize themselves to gather waiting Cordillerans to a Cordillera “among” presided over by Cordillera elders. The venue of the first great Cordillera Bodong, no other than the lucky municipality of Manabo Abra, central town of the rightly proud Maeng tribe came unquestioned to our mind. The signatory Bodong federations will in fact are now informed, Cordillera Bodong Holder/Guarantor paramount pangat Masayo in particular.
There will be a meeting of a core group on Sunday afternoon, August 7, 2016. The agenda will include as priority the reactivation of the Cordillera Bodies (CRA, CEB, CBA), Road Map towards autonomy. Final details are being drafted as of press time.