Balweg group surrenders guns under terms of pact
BAGUIO CITY—The militia formed by slain rebel priest Conrado Balweg was recently recognized as a nongovernmental organization (NGO) by the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) after the former rebel group began the process of disarmament.
But members of the Cordillera Forum for Peace and Development Inc. (Cordillera Forum), the NGO formed by members of the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA), asked the government how it would protect them during the elections.
Sadanga (Mt. Province) Mayor Gabino Ganggangan, a reelectionist and one of Balweg’s former aides, said a faction of the militia was not party to an agreement with President Aquino in July and must be considered an armed group.
This faction, composed of Balweg’s supporters in Kalinga, had refused to participate in negotiations to finalize the peace agreement started by the late President Corazon Aquino in 1986.
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, however, has started negotiations with the faction for a separate peace deal.
Ganggangan said up to 10 former CPLA members are taking part in the 2013 elections, two of them reelectionist mayors like himself.
“We are like sitting ducks,” he told RPOC members on Thursday.
RPOC members voted to make Cordillera Forum a member of the council after discussing the progress made by former militiamen in the disarmament process.
Ifugao Gov. Eugene Balitang, RPOC chair, said CPLA no longer exists as far as the government is concerned, so the armed faction would have to be classified as “another armed group” like the private armed groups being dismantled by the government.
Chief Supt. Benjamin Magalong, Cordillera police director, said he has reservations about condemning the armed CPLA faction.
“Let us accept the fact that we have two factions in the CPLA… and right now we are dealing with Cordillera Forum. As for the other faction, we continue to engage them [in dialogue] and they have been very cooperative. They have a mechanism to discipline their members and our communication with them is very open,” Magalong said.
He said police, though, are not happy about the quality and quantity of weapons which CPLA members had surrendered.
He said they were expecting at least 635 firearms from CPLA members but only 386 weapons had been inventoried and recorded by police, many of them antiquated guns.