By SIMON “Ka Filiw” NAOGSAN
Spokesperson, Cordillera People’s Democratic Front
With the phony dramatics of the surrender of some 60 plus arms, remnants of the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) come into full circle for the nth time since the renegade group split from the New People’s Army on 7 Aprril 1986.
It has come out to do what its leaders had originally intended — to take flight from the people’s struggle and serve the counter-revolutionary operations of the reactionary Armed Forces of the Philippines.
No doubt a few of the arms inventoried or turned over — including 30 in Benguet, 17 in Abra and an undetermined number in Ifugao — came from the original 119 firearms stolen from the people’s army. But no amount of whitewashing, including the surrender of mostly dilapidated arms and the renaming of the notorious CPLA into a deceptively-coined Cordillera Forum for Peace and Development (CFPD), can hide from the public the numerous crimes and atrocities that the merger of the renegade group and the AFP has inflicted on the people.
CPLA’s History of Betrayal
Since the very start, the CPLA’s various factions have right away opted to operate hand-in-hand with the AFP and the Philippine National Police against the revolutionary movement.
It had conducted joint checkpoints and acted as guides in military operations. It had been involved in various death squads that has claimed the life of Cordillera Bodong Association chairman and Cordillera People’s Alliance vice-chairman Ama Daniel Ngayaan, among other victims. This treasonous tie-up was formalized in the scandalous “sipat” (peace pact) held at Mt. Data in Bauko, Mountain Province, between Noynoy Aquino’s mother and Conrado Balweg.
Immediately after the Mt. Data sipat, the intense rivalries of the various factions of the CPLA emerged as first Conrado and Mailed Molina outmaneuvered each other to gain political and armed control in a contest of subservience. Then the various grouplets, many of which were local opportunists or lumpen elements, attempted to divide the region into fiefdoms for control of anti-social operations that included illegal logging, protection rackets, fomenting and actual participation in full blown tribal wars, and illegal drugs.
During the US-Ramos regime, the military attempted to actively intervene to gain control over the runaway monster that the CPLA has turned into. It organized the “Tabuk CPLA-CBA summit” with the CPLA (as the military group) to be controlled by the Molina faction and the Cordillera Bodong Administrration (as the self-proclaimed political group) to be controlled by the Conrado faction. But realizing the folly of taking under its wings an increasingly detested paramilitary group, the US-Ramos regime discreetly avoided admitting it has direct control over the CPLA.
The split became more intense during the US-Estrada regime with four factions of the CPLA elbowing to be “integrated” into the AFP. Both the Conrado and Molina factions dropped foolish and bogus threats to “return to the mountains” if their demands for integration were not entertained.
It was during the US-Arroyo regimme that the effective integration of some 254 members of four rival factions — that of Mailed Molina, Conrado Balweg, Rafael Wasan and James Sawatang — took place under Executive Order 220. Allocated fnnds for integration became subject to graft and corruption, and factional infightings.
Among the first acts of the current US-Aquino regime was the recognition of the faction of Arsenio Humiding to represent the various splinter groups and the conversion of the CPLA into a SEC-registered socio-economic group called the CFPD. Alongside the inventory and surrender of alleged 600 firearms was the propaganda farce that genuine “peace and order” could be attained without addressing the roots of the armed conflict.
Spare armed group
No different from spare tires, the CPLA cum CFPD emerges as a reserved “armed” group that can be sprung from time to time as the need arises. It will be maintained to do the dirty jobs of the AFP and the PNP such as operating as death squads, undertaking illegal logging operations, acting as a private armed group, protecting drug syndicate turfs, inciting tribal wars, and the like.
More importantly, it will be maintained and resurrected time and again for purposes of “peace talks” with armed groups. More like the left hand talking to the right hand, such projections of peace negotiations will hide from the public the failures of on-going talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines due to the insincerities of the Aquino regime.
Further, as a so called “socio-economic force” the CPLA-CFPD plays into the hands of greedy Malacañang officials needing another conduit for funds to line up their bulging pockets. The renegade group also stands as a recruitment base for AFP as ready-made pawns for Oplan Bayanihan (OpBay) and succeeding counter-insurgency plans.
Finally, the choice of the acronym is suspect — this play on words is definitely also a ploy to create confusion and obfuscate the CPLA-CFPD with the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front.
Combat Oplan Bayanihan; Expose the CPLA-CFPD Scheme
The CPLA-CFPD fits into the politico-military component of Oplan Bayanihan by existing as a source and base of recruits who are local traitors familiar with the dynamics of the indigenous socio-political institutions that can be convolutedly utilized by the AFP. It purposely exacerbates the national oppression of the indigenous people by conducting divide-and-rule tactics in national minority areas.
Far from leading into genuine peace and development, the creation of the CFPD further plays an important part in sustaining the economic aggression and intrusion into the ancestral lands. The group will further the economic plunder of the indigenous people’s ancestral lands as it attempts to dull the militant opposition of the concerned national minorities against destructive and large scale projects of foreign capitalists and their local cohorts. The integrated CPLA-CFPD in the AFP is part of the investment security force positioned and deployed strategically in areas targeted for corporate mining as well as hydropower and geothermal energy projects in tribal areas.
As cannon fodder of the US-Aquino regime, the CPLA-CFPD tandem is a double-bladed sword against the revolutionary movement when it is rendered as a fictitious rebel group to monkey-wrench and sabotage the resumption of genuine peace talks between the Aquino government and the NDFP — as an “example”, albeit fraudulent, of achieving “peace” without armed struggle.
Now more than ever, the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front stands for no less than the disintegration, disarming, and punishment of the CPLA-CFPD for the various crimes, abuses and human rights violations it inflicted on the Cordillera people.