Honoring a dishonorable group every Sept. 13

>> Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Alfred P. Dizon

 Some sectors are pressing declaration of Sept. 13 of every year as a regular holiday in the Cordillera Administrative Region to celebrate signing of the so-called historic “sipat” or peace agreement between former Catholic rebel priest Conrado Balweg of the Cordillera Bodong Administration (CBA) and the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA) and former President Corazon C. Aquino that paved the way for the CPLA to give up armed struggle to attain their objectives.
In Baguio, Mayor Mauricio Domogan admitted there is need to consult sectors in the region regarding merits of the proposal to declare every Sept. 13 as regular holiday in the region considering its effects on businessmen who will have to pay their workers double that would mean added expense on their part.
On Sept. 13, 1986, Balweg and Aquino signed the peace agreement and exchanged tokens to signal the end of armed struggle in the region and start of peace efforts considering one of the 26-point demands of the CBA-CPLA at that time was the grant of autonomy to the Cordillera.
As a result, President Aquino issued Executive Order No. 220 on July 15, 1987 that brought together the provinces of Abra, Benguet, Mountain Province and the City of Baguio from Region I and the provinces of Ifugao and Kalinga-Apayao from Region II to compose the Cordillera Administrative Region. Kalinga and Apayao have been since separated as distinct provinces.
Under EO 220, the CAR is supposed to administer the affairs of the government in the region, accelerate socio-economic development of the region and prepare the region for autonomy.
Thus, EO 220 created the Cordillera Regional Assembly, Cordillera Bodong Administration and Cordillera Executive Board to prepare the region for autonomy.
But then, over the years, these bodies have become known for their incompetence. Its officials have become swell-headed. They thought they were above the line agencies and local government units and even the congressmen. This made Congress allocate a P1 budget for them that eventually resulted to their disintegration.
Under the law, according to Benguet Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan, these bodies have not been officially abolished. But to perform their mandate, they need funding.
The so-called “sincere” but mediocre autonomy advocates could have lobbied to be appointed to work for these bodies even without the moolah. But then, when the money was taken away, off they went to greener pastures for other ventures.
As to the CPLA, some have become land-grabbers, extortionists, treasure hunters and criminals. Some have not been prosecuted and made to pay for their crimes like human rights violations, torture and killing of innocent civilians. The CPLA wanted to become the security force of the region, but then concerned sectors blocked this.   
This, as even without CEB, CRA and CBAd, the regional line agencies and local government units performed their bureaucratic role well.  On hindsight, these bodies were just a waste of taxpayers’ money.
Now, Domogan is saying there seems to be no pressing issue on the proposed declaration of every Sept. 13 as a holiday in the region.
Domogan is not saying it, but the day was an offshoot of the government agreement with the CPLA. For members of NGOs purportedly aligned with the Left in the 80s and who were witness to rights abuses committed by the CPLA at that time, making Sept. 13 a holiday for “historical reasons” is tantamount to honoring this dishonorable group.  
The mayor is saying concerned sectors, particularly businessmen, must be consulted on the matter for their insights and inputs to be included as part of the deliberations for its declaration in the future. He may have a point there.
Domogan said there is need to inculcate into the minds of today’s youth important dates in the rich history of the CAR for them to be able to internalize the region’s quest for regional autonomy. But Sept. 13?
The establishment of an autonomous region, according to Domogan, will be beneficial to future generations of Cordillerans.
The Regional Development Council which Domogan heads is pushing a third crack on autonomy. But House Bill No. 5343 which seeks to establish the autonomous region in the Cordillera is pending deliberation with the House committee on local government.
It is awaiting certification of President Rodrigo R. Duterte as an urgent administration bill pursuant to his commitment to Cordillera leaders during their meeting in Malacanang last July 18.
Duterte never mentioned Cordillera autonomy in his state of the nation address (SONA) later prompting advocates to remark the President was not sincere in what he said.
On the part of Cosalan, Cordillera autonomy may be beneficial for the region, but not at this time when constituents are not too keen in supporting it considering two organic acts were rejected by the people, the status quo could suffice.


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