BAGUIO CITY – July 15 is a special non-working holiday in the Cordillera Administrative Region. Thirty yeas ago, Executive Order No. 220 by former President Corazon C. Aquino created CAR – provinces of Abra, Benguet, Mountain Province and the City of Baguio separate from Region I and the provinces of Ifugao, Kalinga and Apayao distinct from Region II.
President Rodrigo Duterte also declared Saturday as a special non-working holiday in the CAR in time for the celebration of the region’s three-decade old anniversary.Secretary Jesus Dureza, speaking a day earlier here for the CAR anniversary, gave premium to unity among Cordillerans to forward the long-sought dream for autonomy.
The Cordillera people need to unite for that dream for autonomy, he exalted, also citing this year’s celebration: “CAR@30: A Celebration of Cordillera Unity”.But is there unity? Not even among the supposed primemover for self-rule – the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA) – show up which signifies that these people are not united.
Former Bucloc, Abra mayor Mailed Molina, one of the founders of CPLA that splintered with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army (CPP) in 1986, decried as “fake” the July 1 “unification” assembly in Bangued, Abra, that supposedly installed Abra Vice Gov. Ronald Balao-as as “unified CPLA” chairman.
“Who is Balao-as in the CPLA?” Molina fumed as he challenged even Sec. Dureza and the OPAPP and the Regional Development Council (RDC) to be circumspect in dealing with the different CPLA factions and apparently “fake” groups misrepresenting them.Vice Gov. Balao-as was apparently sworn by Cordillera Bodong Administration (CBA) president Engr. Andres Ngao-i.
“True that there was unification plans,” explained Molina, who together with former SVD priest turned rebel leader Conrado Balweg, broke ties with the CPP NPA in 1986 and forged a peace pact with the then Corazon Aquino administration that since had resulted in the establishment of Executive Order 220 from where the present Cordillera Administrative Region is cued, “but different factions agreed to start the process and still has to finalize it.”
On April, different CPLA faction leaders including Molina met with the National Economic Development Authority-Cordillera and OPAPP functionaries and agreed to iron out a CPLA unification agreement. “Leaders were assigned to make a proposal to fund the unification process,” the former mayor admitted, “so the process still has to start without agreements yet who will compose the leadership of the CPLA.”
The RDC dreams of gathering the support of a unified CPLA to help forward regional autonomy. But with what is happening, Molina said, “the dream for autonomy which we have been fighting for is being spoiled by credit grabbers and fakes.”“How would you forge unity with splintering us Cordillerans further more,” he said.
Molina said the government “must be circumspect in dealing with the true CPLA members and genuine factions.”
At present, there are still around 3,000 card-bearing members of the different CPLA factions in all six provinces of the Cordillera, the militia leader claimed. These are those who were disenfranchised with the fake installation of the so-called unified CPLA chairman, Molina bantered.
“In deference to genuine CPLA members and genuine factions,” Molina said, “I will not recognize the bogus chairman installed (on July 1).” He said, “We defend the name of the CPLA because we pledged our sweat and blood with it in 1986 when we broke ranks with the CPP-NPA.”
Fr. Balweg was assassinated by the Abra-based Agustin Begnalen Command of the CPP-NPA on December 31, 1999 on supposed “blood debts” of the CPLA.Genuine CPLA members, Molina added, “must rise up against the injustice that happened in honor of the long years of blood that poured in the Cordillera mountains as an offering for self-rule.
On July 14, 2017, Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan, chairperson of the Regional Development Council said that Autonomy should be pushed and is calling for the Cordillerans to unite for the success of the autonomy.
Just recently House Bill 3454, a bill seeking for the President Duterte to sign the bill as urgent for the conduct of the plebiscite of the autonomous government of the Cordillera region. With reports ACE ALEGRE / ABN