Cordillera rebs start giving up gunsPhilippine Daily Inquirer
CAMP DANGWA, Benguet—The Cordillera police on Friday began an inventory of firearms owned by a militia formed by slain rebel priest Conrado Balweg, in preparation for a gradual disarmament process that is dictated by its July 4, 2011, closure agreement with the government.
More than a thousand members of Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) had signed a memorandum of agreement with President Benigno Aquino that would lead to a “final disposition of arms and forces and the CPLA’s transformation into a potent socioeconomic unarmed force.”
The deal arranged by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process was meant to resolve Balweg’s 1986 sipat (cessation of hostilities) with the late President Corazon Aquino, who formed the Cordillera Administrative Region through an executive order.
The police examined and received 40 shotguns, cal. 45 revolvers and old rifles, which were turned over here by 43 militiamen based in Benguet.
Arsenio Humiding, CPLA chair, said the firearms were the first of a series of militia artillery that would be handed over to the police.
He said militia members based in Ifugao, Abra, Kalinga, and Mt. Province would also submit to an inventory and valuation of their firearms until Nov. 15.
It would not be an easy exercise for the former Cordillera rebels, he said.
Humiding said many CPLA members had strong emotional attachments to their weapons, having acquired them after they joined and then defected from the communist rebels in the late 1980s. Some of them also own rifles they have inherited from their grandparents or bought while being militia members, Humiding said.
But many agreed to surrender their weapons to secure peace. “Their attachment to their guns is strongly associated to their being members of the CPLA. Surrendering their firearms would quickly and suddenly change their lives, but they know it is necessary,” he said.
The disarmament process would also cover CPLA members who refused to abide by the agreement, Humiding said.
“There is only one CPLA, but it is the commitment of the police to deal with factions. After this, everyone should be disarmed, [in order to] implement the memorandum of agreement,” he said. Desiree Caluza, Inquirer Northern Luzon