By SIMON “Ka Filiw” NAOGSAN
Cordillera Peoples’ Democratic Front
ALCUB, Abra — With clenched fists raised, the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front salutes the participants of the 27th Cordillera Day being held in Lacub, Abra. We especially hold in esteem the people of Lacub who defied threats to disallow the commemoration of this historic occasion by staging delegations and meeting head-on the challenge hurled by the local government officials and elements of the 41st Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Lacub is especially significant as the site of this year’s Cordillera Day celebration because, as in other parts of the Cordillera, it is threatened by three large-scale corporate mining firms — Total Mineral Exploration, the Philex-owned Golden Lake Mineral Resources, and Titan Mining and Energy Corporation — and the community’s struggle to defend their ancestral land, livelihood and resources. The theme of this year’s Cordillera day, “Live Out Our Glorious History of Struggle! Fight for Land, Life and Honor!”, fits aptly the plight of the heroic people of Lacub.
Thirty years ago today, the first commemoration of the slaying of one of the pangats, Ama Macliing Dulag, who led the militant opposition of the Bontoc and Kalinga villages against the giant Chico River Dam Project, was held. Simultaneous with this World Bank funded mega dam project, was the attempt to denude the forests of Abra and the adjacent provinces through the Cellophil Resources Corporation’s timber concession. Sustained and militant mass actions struggles forged by solid alliances, coupled with the ascending people’s armed
struggle, ultimately thwarted these twin threats alongside the removal of the Marcos dictatorship.
Since then, the incipient Kaigorotan consciousness transcended to grasping the importance of defending not only the land, life and rights of individual tribes but of the entire nation as well against the onslaught of foreign oppressors and their local uniformed henchmen in the reactionary Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippines National Police (PNP).
Never has the so-called development efforts in the Cordillera by the reactionary national government been so lopsided as it is today. Its
national policy of regarding the Cordillera as a mere resource-based
area for exploitation remains the same. Like the previous regimes, the
current US-Aquino government considers the hinterlands of the Cordillera, like that of Mindanao, as source of material wealth for extraction, and not as communities of national minorities.
The inutile National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) continues
to be a tool to legitimize large-scale corporate mining and hydropower
dams. Last year, among the midnight deals sneaked in by the past Arroyo regime was the mining exploration application of Cordillera Exploration Inc. or CEXI, a subsidiary of Anglo-American PLC, that encompassed at least 1,872 hectares in 12 barrios (villages) in three
municipalities in the Mountain Province.
Another entity, Horizons Resource Corp., would cover almost 60,000
hectares in Benguet and 43 barangays (villages) in four towns of Mountain Province. On September 10 last year, Mt. Franz Mining Corp. posted a notice of application for the so-called Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) covering 54.800 hectares in 11 barrios in Mountain Province and 42 barangays in Kalinga.
FTAAs, exploration agreements, and mining production sharing agreements now aggregate to one million hectares or more than 51% of
the total land area of the Cordillera. Even the coastal areas of Ilocos are not spared, as magnetite ore is scoured along the shoreline.
New contracts for hydropower generation plants in the Cordillera total
30 aside from the 21 existing mini-hydropower plants, not to mention the Magat, San Roque, Ambuklao and Binga mega dams. These new contracts are expected to add 250 megawatts or half of the additional
hydropower needed by the entire Luzon grid.
Through the system of Wholesale Energy Source Market or WESM, wherein spot prices of peak power can reach as high as P20 per kilowatt hour, super profit is assured for these capitalists at the great expense of the national minorities. Many of these contracts are operated or owned by San Miguel Corp. and Aboitiz/Hedcor. The largest of these proposed dams will be the 110 Megawatt dam across the Pasil river in Kalinga, while other hydropower contracts will submerge portions of the Sifu river in Paracelis/Natonin and in Sabangan, both in Mountain Province; Tanudan in Kalinga; and, in Tinoc, Ifugao.
As the Cordillera continues to be the nation’s vegetable basin, petroleum-based corporate agriculture continues to manipulate the prices of farm inputs, in the process intensifying the toxic contents
of our rivers and agricultural lands.
The Halsema highway and other Cordillera road projects have been for
so long the largest milking cow of corrupt Malacanang tenants in the
field of infrastructure, and still farflung barrios are unreachable despite repeated reconstructions of roads and bridges.
Despite the official report of the Department of Public Works and Highways that these are all-weather roads and despite the pouring in millions of people’s money, the road going to Lacub and other tertiary roads in Abra, as in remote areas of the other provinces in the Cordillera region, are glaring examples of the historical neglect of government services and unbridled corruption, nurtured by the culture
of impunity that is endemic of a semi-colonial and semi-feudal sick society ruled and controlled by the ruling elite.
Brutal militarization in the region further compounds the complicated
problems of the Cordillera people. Oplan Bayanihan, the new Internal
Security Plan of the US-Aquino regime, cosmetically replaces the failed Oplan Bantay Laya 1 & 2. Replacing the name of Reengineered Special Operations Teams with Peace and Development Teams is a psy-war ploy that fails to mask the corruption and desperation of the units of
the 5th Infantry Division in the hinterlands.
Last 29 January, four students doing civic-action work in Mainit, Bontoc, were tortured without apparent reason by drunken troops of the 54th Infantry Battalion. Likewise, operating troops of the same unit
harassed onlookers warning them of reprisals if an encounter happens.
While outgoing generals are given “pabaon” (illegal retirement bonuses) and area commanders encash commissions on supply and operational funds, field commanders also engage in “bounty hunting” through fake surrenderees, in order to collect rewards, while households are threatened from supporting the New People’s Army.
Fabrications seem to be the hallmark of Oplan Bayanihan. When the Agustin Begnalen Command of the NPA in Abra repulsed several attacks
of the 50th Infantry Battalion from 29 March to 4 April this year, the spin masters of the 503rd Infantry Brigade charged that their troops were undertaking a humanitarian mission. This was the same with the
January tactical offensive of the Nona del Rosario Command in Asipulo,
Ifugao, when troops of the 86th Infantry Battalion alleged to be carrying only hammers and nails to ostensibly conduct house-building
activities but were actually on a combat operation.
Militarization intensifies the national oppression of the indigenous people of the Cordillera. Through divide-and-rule tactics the AFP deploys Igorot officers and foot soldiers in the 5th Infantry Division and its organic units that includes the Cordillera region as its area of responsibility. It carries out a scheme of pacification by recruiting draftees and CAFGU militia. It utilizes these Igorot officers to ridicule tribal customs and traditions that keep intact the social fabric of harmonious relationships among the tribal communities. Tribal conflicts are purposely intensified by military agents fanning grievances against the NPA members, and participating in actual combat during full blown tribal wars while others make good business by selling ammunition to the contending warring tribes.
Schools, barangay halls, daycare centers, and other public facilities
as well as private houses are forcibly used by operating troops for their quarters, trampling on the people’s rights and endangering their
lives. Economic activities such as gathering of firewood, foraging for wildlife and other economic activities are restricted whenever the military patrols the neighborhood.
Not only the most corrupt agency of the reactionary government, the
AFP has also been virtually converted into an “investment security and
defense force” protecting extractive and destructive large scale mining and other imperialist projects in the region. The 503rd Infantry Brigade with its two organic units, the 50th Infantry Battalion and the 41st Infantry Battalion, act as armed escorts to the more than eight new mining applicants within Abra, as well as those on the shoreline of the Ilocos provinces and the existing mines of Benguet. Meanwhile, the 501st Infantry Brigade, which control the 54th Infantry Battalion, 21st Infantry Battalion and 86th Infantry Battalion, shields mining firms within Mountain Province, Ifugao, and Kalinga and Apayao.
Yet the indigenous people of the Cordillera remain undaunted against
the massive militarization and human rights violations. They have infallibly provided much needed information, material and other support to the NPA. So much so that during the last year of Oplan Bantay Laya 2 up to the 1st quarter of this year, the military sustained 104 casualties, 58 of these killed in action, in 20 battles throughout the region. Valuable firepower and other military logistics were seized by the Red fighters.
It is unfortunate that many of the military casualties come from the
ranks of the marginalized poor, but this is a realization that the impoverished sectors, where rank and file soldiers come from, are sources of cannon fodder for the generals and other superior officers who enrich themselves in every operation. Until all indigenous communities can desist from providing manpower to the military, whether as recruits or civilian auxiliaries such as the CAFGU, there will be a continuous supply of ill-fated sacrifices that could have become productive contributions to the village welfare.
Must the national minorities in the Cordillera continue to suffer economically and socio-politically. Enough is enough, we must shatter the fetters of oppression and wage a final battle for the emancipation
of all indigenous people and all victims of the semi-colonial and semi-feudal society.
As we accelerate the recruitment of Red fighters, launch bigger and bolder tactical offensives and strengthen the revolutionary mass bases, inch by inch we advance the people’s war towards a higher stage of the armed struggle. No difficulty is insurmountable, our victories in the Cordillera region contribute to the nationwide advance of the national democratic revolution. Let us grasp our urgent tasks and firm up our commitment so that our spears are honed sharp and our shields forged solidly to prepare for the coming battles.
To the youth of both the hinterlands and the urban centers: your intellectual and cultural skills would play a major role in galvanizing the political will of the indigenous people if we merge with the basic masses in the countryside struggle.
To the urban poor and workers in the mines, factories and communities:
let us strengthen our unity in order to contribute the finest in our ranks to the revolutionary cause.
To the professionals including scientists, engineers, lawyers, religious sector and teachers: we must forge ever-solid alliances that will advance the struggle for genuine change, higher wages and lower prices as well as defend the welfare and interest of the indigenous people in the countryside. Especially important are the civilian workers in the public-sector who are wage-earners in the reactionary government which is the largest employer in the region — let us sustain the struggle against graft and corruption by bravely exposing anomalies and irregularities. Local government officials must resist attempts by the 5th ID and its organic units to coerce them into submitting their offices and programs as subordinates to counterinsurgency operations.
To the village elders: let us strengthen and forge various CPDF councils and other organizational forms, formal and informal, and take the crucial role in the defense of our ancestral lands. Resume your lead role in promoting peace pacts and conflict resolution among warring tribes. We must continue to resist military presence in our ili (community), and combat encroachment by foreign large-scale
corporate interests who would usurp and destroy our ancestral land.
To the military rank and file including the paramilitary CAFGUs: turn your guns at the true enemy of the people. Better still, resign from the reactionary army. Do not allow yourselves to become pawns of the ruling class in its brutal rule. The longer you tolerate serving their selfish interests, the more it will spell hard sufferings to the people. If you can not get out yet, continue providing information to the revolutionary movement and take steps to evade encounters.
The various pangats and martyrs who have shed blood in the struggle to liberate the Cordilleras and the entire nation in the past did not die
in vain. Ama Macliing Dulag, Ama Pedro Dungoc, Ama Luciano Lumbaya,
Ama Maneksek Mangatam, Ama Daniel Ngayaan, Ama Manzano Domin-eng,Marcelo Fakilang, and Fabian Beswilan, to name a few, are names
immortalized as the fighters for freedom, enshrined in the hearts of all Kaigorotan along with the martyrdom of Jennifer “Maria” Carino, Leonardo Pacsi, Agustin Begnalen, Nona del Rosario, Lejo Cawilan, Wright “Chadli” Molintas Jr. among others, who were the best sons and
daughters of the Cordillera mountains that braved the most brutal onslaught of the state.
With painstaking work, amidst the cessation of all tribal conflicts, let us forge the militant unity that will ensure the emancipation of all Cordillera and the Filipino people, as the final struggle in the defense our ancestral lands, livelihood, rights and resources. We must all rise up in arms and establish a genuinely free, progressive, peaceful, just and democratic society!
Agbiag dagiti umili ti Kordilyera!
Agbiag dagiti umili a Pilipino!
Idur-as ti gubat ti umili!