Little-known facts about CPLA
TRIBAL elders at “sipat” took the place of Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) leaders still in hiding.
The CPLA leadership still preferred anonymity at the time in 1986 when President Corazon Aquino was prepared to sign the sipat that would lead to peace talks.
So tribal leaders led by Leonardo Bun-as, Mariano Agosto, Mario Yag-ao, Pedro Abbacan and Lourdes Limmayog were ushered in as witnesses to the peace pact.
Their presence, however, presented Aquino with proof that the CPLA issues were genuine community demands, said Gabino Ganggangan, a trusted aide of rebel priest Conrado Balweg.
“I was the last missing link [for the military, which tried to put together the people who put up CPLA]. There was this general who was shocked to learn I was in the movement,” Ganggangan said.
CPLA campaigned against Cordillera autonomy.
The CPLA had fought for autonomy, but Balweg campaigned against Republic Act No. 6477 (the first organic act creating the Cordillera Autonomous Region), because it left out provisions that would allow residents control over the natural resources.
It also did not accept a parliamentary form of governance which is traditionally Cordilleran, Ganggangan said.
“We were aware of how campaigning against autonomy may be perceived as hypocrisy and inconsistency,” he said, so Balweg and the CPLA leaders supported the second organic act, RA 8438. Both laws failed to win ratification in plebiscites in 1990 and 1998.
The CPLA factions
The CPLA broke up into several variations across the years. Balweg controlled a faction until his death in 1999.
Another faction was associated with Kalinga-based commander James Sawatang; former Bucloc, Abra Mayor Mailed Molina, who was later implicated in cases related to illegal drugs and unlicensed guns; and Abrino Aydinan, former chair of the Cordillera Regional Consultative Commission (CRCC), which authored the original draft law creating the Cordillera Autonomous Region. Another CPLA member broke away and formed the Igorot Liberation Front (ILF).
But the root of their disagreements was never made public. The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process had traced the CPLA’s factionalism to 1993 when Balweg was criticized for focusing on treasure hunting expeditions and for neglecting his own militia.
But Balweg was pursuing income-generating projects that would ease the worries of the region’s 57 villages, Ganggangan said. Records of the defunct Cordillera Executive Board showed that Balweg had also tried to secure rights to operate the Batongbuhay Mines in Benguet.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.