BANGUED, ABRA – The Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) has renewed its pursuit of regional autonomy and development in the region as it handed over the 1986 peace agreement to the Duterte Administration.
CPLA Chairman Abra Vice Governor Ronald Balao-as and Cordillera Bodong Administration (CBA) President Andres Ngao-i spearheaded the conduct of the “Galigad” ritual which transfers the bodong or peace pact holder from then President Corazon Aquino to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte thru the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza.
During the rituals at the Abra Provincial Capitol, CPLA-CBA leaders including the provincial commanders and representatives turned over several traditional items as such as g-string, a spear, a bolo, and shield to Dureza who was garbed in traditional Tingguian cloth and the tabungaw kattukong or the head gear made by Abrenean National Living Treasure Teofilo Garcia.
In exchange, Dureza with Undersecretary Nabil Tan handed over a bible and a rosary to Balao-as and Ngao-i as a sign of respect and assurance that the national government will stand with the Cordillerans and fulfill the provisions of the agreement which started 31 years ago including the pursuit of regional autonomy.
It could be remembered that on September 13, 1986 in Mount Data Hotel in Bauko, Mountain Province, then Pres. Corazon Aquino exchanged peace tokens in a ritual called ”sipat” or the cessation of hostilities with the CPLA headed by then former priest Conrado Balweg, an icon of Cordillera resistance.
The sipat between the CPLA and the government brought about Executive Order No. 220 signed on July 15, 1987 which led to the creation of the Cordillera Administrative Region to prepare the region to become autonomous.
“The peace agreement entered into by the late President Cory Aquino and Father Conrado Balweg 31 years ago is still binding, honoured and respected by the CBA-CPLA and the Cordillera people as partner of the government in the maintenance of peace and order in the Cordillera,” said Ngao-i.
“We take this occasion to extend our heartfelt gratitude to you, our beloved Secretary Dureza, now our kabodong, for the attention you have given to the Cordillera including the CBA-CPLA, during your stint as OPAPP Secretary and we welcome the opportunity to tread path under your auspices to pursue our common aspirations to genuine autonomy and peace in the cordillera through autonomy first towards federalism,” he added.
In his message, Balao-as relayed to the Duterte Administration through Sec. Dureza the intention to take the Cordillera peace process a step further. “We are already done with the ‘sipat’ or the cessation of hostilities and we stood firm with the agreement 31 years ago, now we are ready to sit down and discuss the ‘pagta’ or the agreement.”
Balao-as stated that among the agreements is the attainment of the Cordillera autonomy and development. He said that autonomy will correct an accumulation of historic inequities and injustices left unattended for too long.
He added that the development programs and the projects are needed in the Cordillera to be at par with the rest of the regions in the country.
For the CBA-CPLA, Balao-as asked for livelihood projects that will help them in their reconciliation and to their restoration of the “freedom fighters” into society for a constructive re-weaving of the Filipino social fabric torn by years of conflict.
In response, Dureza lauded Cordillerans for ending hostilities through indigenous peace making and peace building system en route to an autonomous region. “The government now would like to provide an enabling government to give our returning brothers a real chance to become productive and empowered through the livelihood support being provided for by government,” Dureza said.
Dureza stressed the importance of peace as primary tool to reassure the positive intention of government for them to return to society.
“We have to respect first where we are different and accept that we are not the same. This is part of both party’s roadmap for peace,” the Secretary stressed.
Dureza also mentioned the efforts of “warming up” the issue on autonomy, and now hand-in-hand with federalism which is being pushed by Pres. Duterte. REDJIE MELVIC CAWIS, PIA CAR / ABN
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