April 21, 2019
The seemingly peaceful towns of Bauko and Tadian in Mountain Province have been disturbed recently by a series of firefights between the New People’s Army (NPA) and the joint forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) last March 29, March 31, and April 2.
If one is to read into the statements released by the AFP-PNP and projected in the mainstream media, it seems that the public’s general sentiment is that “We must condemn the atrocities of the NPA as we, the Igorot people, are peace-loving and pro-life.” The local government units of Bauko, Tadian, and Sagada consequently put out municipal resolutions declaring the NPA, along with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), as “persona non grata”. In fact, the Tadian LGU under the leadership of Mayor Anthony Wooden led a “condemnation rally” last April 9, National Day of Valor, against NPA presence in the area.
Such sentiments are understandable at first, since the said towns have not witnessed any major armed encounters between government forces and the NPA in a long while. Nonetheless, the revolutionary forces under the CPP-NPA-NDFP have been active in the province for nearly five decades. However, we must ask ourselves: Why is there a civil war in the country that has gone on for fifty years? What is the ultimate root of the armed struggle being waged in the countryside?
These questions could have been answered by both sides had the bloodthirsty Duterte regime pushed through with and not canceled the peace negotiations between the government and the NDFP on behalf of the revolutionary forces. The negotiating table is a platform on which the issues and the calls of these revolutionary groups can be discussed, such as genuine land reform, national industrialization, national sovereignty, adequate and quality social services for the people, among others. Not to forget the countless human rights violations perpetuated by the government forces. These are legitimate issues of the Filipino people that must be addressed, even and especially for us Cordillerans. Actually, one of the key tenets being forwarded in the NDFP’s program is the defense of ancestral domain and right to self-determination of national minorities, including the Kaigorotan. Historically speaking, the CPP-NPA fought side by side with the Cordillera people in the struggle against the destructive Chico River megadam project and Cellophil project during the Marcos dictatorship.
Are such acts condemnable?
What earned my ire is one of the calls raised at the said rally in Tadian: “We condemn your principles, CPP-NPA-NDFP!” Is genuine land reform condemnable? Is fighting for national sovereignty against US imperialism and Chinese intervention condemnable? Is defending the ancestral lands of the national minorities condemnable?
We can spend an entire day discussing as to why they resorted to waging armed struggle in order to attain such goals. But at the end of the day, we cannot condemn what we really do not understand. The LGUs of Mountain Province, instead of simply declaring the CPP-NPA-NDFP persona non grata, must release resolutions in support of the peace talks and rally the people to push for the resumption of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. As for us Igorot people deemed to be peace-loving and pro-life, we must be active in seeking genuine and lasting peace that is based on social justice. Traditionally, we have the bodong and the pagta to resolve tribal wars between the ilis.
It must be said over and over again: the armed conflict is not only between the CPP-NPA-NDFP and the AFP-PNP. The ongoing civil war in the Philippines is not a mere insurgency, but rather, a people’s war. And we are all involved. #