By ALDWIN QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY – In a statement sent to the media, the spokesperson of the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CPDF) said the miserable situation in the regions of Ilocos and the Cordillera mirrors the dismal state of the country a year after President Benigno Simeon Aquino III took office.
According to Simon “Ka Filiw” Naogsan, Aquino’s empty promises are reflected in the continuing violations and betrayal of the people’s right to land, livelihood and resources.
“The real boss of the Aquino administration turns out to be not the Filipino people but US Imperialism as it furiously expands its economic interests as well as large-scale corporate mines and geothermal and hydroelectric power projects in Northern Luzon, and as it rams down the people’s throat its Oplan Bayanihan (OPB), the so-called internal peace and security plan,” Naogsan said. He said these only worsen the oppression of the indigenous peoples of the nation which has now reached an ethnocidal level.
Naogsan said the “daang matuwid” slogan of PNoy is no different from the substandard Halsema Highway with its erosions and landslides, close-open status and for its servicing mainly the foreign interests in extracting super profits from out of the Cordillera region’s resources.
Naogsan lambasted the Oplan Bayanihan of the Aquino government, saying that while it has deceptive features, it is quickly exposing its true character as compared to the Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and 2 of the previous administration. He explained that the old tactic of “divide and rule” is being applied to exploit indigenous social, economic and political systems in its counter-insurgency operations.
“They target not only combatants but more so the innocent civilians including minors and the elderly. Coming up with nice-sounding contraptions to hide the harshness and vileness of Oplan Bayanihan does not succeed in erasing the notoriety of the AFP as armed units of the ruling class,” Naogsan said.
The CPDF spokesperson also warned that under the Aquino administration, further ruin awaits the hinterland communities of the region as over half of the Cordillera has now been covered by various mining permits and exploration applications.
“The mining operations of the US giant mining company, Phelps Dodge, in Patiacan, Quirino, in Ilocos Sur and Batong Buhay, Pasil, Kalinga; the Lepanto’s nine front companies planning to drill in 311,853 hectares more within 29 municipalities across six provinces; the 33 mining applications covering 292,600 hectares criss-crossing Abra; as well as Nickel-Asia’s take-over of 194,640 hectares covered by Cordillera Exploration/Anglo-American Exploration all make a mockery of the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process,” Naogsan said.
Naogsan added that since the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) makes it a point to invent and “recognize” organizations of elders that eventually grant FPICs despite opposition from genuine peoples’ organizations, the provisions of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) has become a mechanism that engenders milking cows for the corrupt bureaucracy.
Naogsan also criticized Aquino for his intensified implementation of the dole-out Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) known as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) which insults and turns productive forces into beggars, according to Naogsan. He explained that with much funds already spent, the health conditions and school infrastructures in the 49 CCT areas in the region have not yet improved and on the contrary have even deteriorated.
“Even in the province of Benguet, ironically one of the five richest provinces in the country and also a CCT recipient, one in every three schools does not meet the minimum standard of having one seat for every student. As much as 20 percent of the P20 billion earmarked for CCT nationwide goes to trainings, additional staff and printing of manuals and not to the actual beneficiaries – thus it is a source of corruption for the DSWD,” Naogsan added.
New crop of aspiring warlords
The shifting of political alliances is strengthening the administration coalition but it is also engendering some warlord wannabes, Naogsan said. “This early, politicians have sought to consolidate control and influence over stakeholders, wherein even a state college president has been a victim of vicious ploys to replace the position with a lackey of the incumbent Congressman,” he said as example.
Naogsan added that there is a third attempt to push for an organic act creating a bogus Cordillera Autonomous Region to further co-opt political leaders and speed up the exploitation of its rich natural resources. He said regional autonomy is meaningless and counter-productive if the political power is controlled by imperialism and the elite classes of landlords and corrupt officials as well as criminals, opportunists and hypocrites. According to Naogsan, regional autonomy can only be achieved if the nation is free from foreign domination and free from oppression.
Naogsan criticized the Aquino administration for cuddling the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA). “The Aquino regime seeks to resuscitate the comatose CPLA in order to project some progress in the peace talks that it is currently sabotaging, thus stalling the Government of the Philippines (GPH)-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace negotiations,” he said.
Naogsan declared that despite all these, the progressive legal mass movement has made significant strides in defending the land, livelihood and resources and the rights of the indigenous people. He said that progressive demonstrations are being staged whenever there is rampant abuse by the military.
According to Naogsan, the Aquino administration has failed miserably. He said there is no clear difference between the present rulers and that past administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. “As in all the previous regimes, the Aquino regime in its first year in office has failed to address but instead continued to perpetuate the historically rooted issue of national oppression being suffered by the national minorities of the Cordillera,” he said.