Militarization is inimical to the ancestral land rights of the Cordillera people

By SIMON “Ka Filiw” NAOGSAN,
Spokesperson, Cordillera People's Democratic Front

Fifth Infantry Division Commander MGen. Rommel Gomez, is distorting the issues of ancestral domain and heritage and is debasing these for counter-insurgency operations and psy-war.

MGen. Gomez’ call for fresh local recruits for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the denial of food, shelter, and protection to the New People's Army, all cleverly packaged with the issue of protecting the people’s rights to ancestral lands, disguises the military’s role in intensifying the national oppression of the indigenous people in the Cordillera.

Portraying the military as the people’s partner in achieving peace and development is a vile psywar ploy. It is the massive militarization of the Cordillera that causes destruction of ancestral lands and resources and interferes with and violates indigenous rights to use, protect and develop ancestral lands.

The military mindset that arbitrarily classifies anyone within their areas of operations as either friend or foe, shows the AFP’s lack of sensitivity to local culture. The merciless killing of civilians during military operations and the imposition of virtual martial law that restricts farmers from tending to their crops, hunting, or cutting firewood clearly attest to this fact. Since the Marcos dictatorship, military troops have been sent to the Cordillera for “peacekeeping and development” missions that have turned out to be nothing more than protecting big extractive industries such as dams, mines, and geothermal projects that threatened to or actually displaced thousands of Cordillerans. And now comes MGen. Gomez, who has the audacity to say that his troops are here to protect ancestral lands and children? Is this why he has deployed his troops to “protect” the mining application sites of the Cordillera Exploration Company (CEXI)/Anglo-American Group PLC in the tri-boundary of Sagada, Bauko and Tadian?

MGen. Gomez calls the Cordillera people to watch over their children, but he is blind to the fact that Igorot children are displaced and put at risk when AFP troopers use day care centers and school buildings as barracks and villages as their garrisons. The general keeps wailing foul and repeats the lie that the seven soldiers ambushed last July 9 in Samoki, Bontoc, Mountain Province were on their way to a medical mission. Far from it, the soldiers were on a mission to force local executives to sign an agreement to join in the counter-insurgency effort.

The malicious insistence of the 5th ID for localized peace talks instead of the resumption of the stalled peace talks at the national level is a futile implementation of the divide-and-rule tactic and clearly shows their insincerity and vileness. The 5th ID espouses the Convergence Approach, a program that carries all the features of the US Counter-Insurgency Guide.

The struggle for the genuine defense of land, life and resources is the struggle against militarization and the aggression of foreign and local big extractive industries. It is time that Igorot military officers realize that the Igorot masses and the revolutionary forces will resolutely stand together and will be undaunted by force or lies. Fetad! Rebolusyon kayet!

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