34th Cordillera Day calls for unity to fight Duterte’s tyranny

Continuing the tradition of noble defiance against oppression, delegates of the 34th Cordillera Day celebration resolved to strengthen the resistance against the tyranny of the Duterte regime and assert the right to self determination of Cordillera indigenous peoples. The 2018 Cordillera Day was a big success, with the participation of 1,500 indigenous peoples and rights advocates from the Cordillera, various regions of the Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, and several countries from April 22-24 in Baguio City.
The 34th Cordillera Day kicked off with a welcome ritual led by Ibagiw, an organization of Ibaloi in Baguio City and Benguet and co-host of the celebration. Church groups, including the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, United Methodist Church, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, and the Regional Ecumenical Council in the Cordillera prayed for continuing strength in the people’s assertion and defense of their rights during an ecumenical service.
Former Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) secretary Judy Taguiwalo in her keynote speech defined tyranny as cruel, unjust and oppressive governance. She said “It is clear that the Duterte regime is tyrannical: cruel, oppressive and unjust of its treatment of the Filipino people, especially those critical of it.” She cited that tyranny only fuels the culture of impunity and injustice in the country. She also reiterated that the fight to assert the right to self-determination of the Cordillera has been a response to inequality, discrimination and tyranny.
This year’s Cordillera Day was a venue for learning, cultural exchange, solidarity, and affirmation of commitment to work for peace based on justice and for the promotion of indigenous peoples’ rights. Various workshops and education sessions were held, along with cultural performances and sharing of solidarity messages from indigenous rights advocates in the country and abroad.
Cordillera Day 2018 affirmed resolutions to expose and fight destructive mining and energy projects in the region including the Alimit dam in Ifugao, the hydropower projects in Apayao, and the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project in Kalinga. Delegates from the peasant sector vowed to conduct wider educational activities and mass actions against the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) because the plight of the poor peasants. Elders and community leaders from the Cordillera provinces firmly rejected Duterte’s plan of changing the constitution and advancing federalism as they resolved to promote genuine regional autonomy versus the government’s bogus regional autonomy. Arising from the intense militarization and human rights situation in the region, law students from Baguio and indigenous rights advocates from Manila and other countries such as Taiwan, Australia, Japan, Canada and the US pledged their support to the struggle of Cordillera indigenous peoples.
The Dap-ayan ti Kultura iti Kordilyera (People’s Center for Cordillera Culture) organized a concert entitled “Saniweng ti Maysa a Tignay,” which expressed the different issues confronting Cordillera indigenous peoples through music. Grupong Binhi, the Bangit brothers, Salidummay and other artists, bands and musicians expressed their solidarity to the Cordillera indigenous peoples in the nights of music and dance.
The third day caved history as Cordillera Day delegates marched against tyranny along Session Road to the Supreme Court where the Supreme Court En Banc held a hearing on the Quo Warranto petition against Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno. The delegates were joined by other groups such as the Coalition for Justice, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) and the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT). A program was held outside the Supreme Court where the people called for judicial independence, respect for the rule of law, and an end to Duterte’s persecution of critics of the government’s anti-people policies.
Cordillera Day 2018 culminated with the formation and launching of the Cordillera Movement Against Tyranny (CMAT) in response to the intensified militarization, human rights violations and development aggression through destructive projects in the region. Almost 50 individuals representing 50 organizations from the six provinces of the region and Baguio City formed the CMAT Convenors and pledged to fight tyranny. In a message, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat said “Huwag tayong matakot. Kailangang magkaisa tayo. Kailangan din na makipagkaisa tayo sa iba ring mga grupo na tumututol sa sakim na diktaturya na bumabalot sa ating rehiyon at sa buong bansa”. SARA DEKDEKEN, Cordillera Peoples Alliance secretary general, 26 April 2018

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