Female soldiers who are daughters of former CPLA members integrated to the AFP as a result of the MOA between GPH and CPLA, together with their Officer at the 50th Infantry Battalion and MS DAISY LEE, a former CBA-CPLA member. The 50th Infantry Battalion which covers part of Abra, Mt Province and Benguet has about 40% of its personnel who are highlanders. The different battalions covering the whole of the Cordillera region have also their own share of “highlander” soldiers.
THE ROLE OF THE CPLA INTEGREES IN THE AFP’S INTERNAL PEACE AND SECURITY PLAN (IPSP BAYANIHAN)
LTC FERDINAND MELCHOR C DELA CRUZ MI (GSC) PA, 5ID, PA
Since the founding of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New Peoples’ Army four decades ago, the group still remains as a threat to national security and development. While the Armed Forces of the Philippines achieved substantial gains in addressing the armed groups that threaten the country’s peace and security, the decades of experience has taught the organization that internal peace and security concerns cannot be solved by the AFP alone. Thus, the conceptualization of IPSP Bayanihan which focuses on intensified stakeholders’ involvement in the whole-of-the-nation approach to address the long-time insurgency problems in the country. The framework of the Internal Peace and Security Plan is geared towards “winning the peace” in order to help the Filipino nation create an environment for sustainable development and a just and lasting peace.
While the IPSP is national in scope, even addressing the Southern Philippines Secessionist Groups, it may well be effective in the Cordilleras which ironically is still being threatened by insurgents that embrace a foreign communist ideology which runs counter to the aspirations of the Cordillera people.
For the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army which covers the Cordillera Region, the role of its organic Cordillera soldiers is salient and essential in the implementation of the Peace and Security Plan.
SENSE OF OWNERSHIP
Cordillera people are known to be self-reliant and independent. This may have rooted from the tribal nature of the peoples where factions and killings are a way of life for survival and for some, for prestige and manhood. Strangers and lowlanders were considered hostile and enemies.
In the past, there had been cases when soldiers from the “lowlands” get into trouble due to their ignorance and disregard of the peoples’ culture, beliefs and practices. On the other hand, there were also instances when government troops are saved by the community from enemy attacks (ambush) because of presence of Cordillerans among the soldiers.
With the Cordillera soldiers at the forefront of implementing the AFP Internal Peace and Security Plan, the folks may feel more comfortable dealing with their own people.
“INDIGINIZING” THE SOLDIERS IN THE CORDILLERA REGION
When the group of Fr Balweg was calling for autonomy of the Cordillera Region, one of the proposals was the creation of the Cordillera Regional Security Force (CRSF). This was not realized as autonomy was not granted as a result of plebiscites. Integration to the AFP was however approved by virtue of Administrative Order 18 and Executive Order 49 as a result of the Peace Accord between the Government and the CPLA thru the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Peace Process. A total of 15 Officers and 671 enlisted personnel were integrated to the AFP. Additionally, there are also those who were enlisted through the regular processing at the 5th Infantry Division especially when the Commander then was a Cordilleran himself – retired Major General Rommel Gomez of Mt Province. With the present strength (numbers) of the Cordillera soldiers in 5ID, PA, the dream of the Balweg of “in-diginizing” the soldiers in the Cordilleras is in fact being slowly realized.
The 50th Infantry Battalion which covers part of Abra, Mt Province and Benguet has about 40% of its personnel who are highlanders . Five of these soldiers are females and are now involved in the conduct of Civil-Military Operations and Peace and Development activities of the battalion. The different battalions covering the whole of the Cordillera region have also their own share of “highlander” soldiers.
IMPACT ON COUNTER-INSURGENCY
Insurgency problem in the Cordilleras was triggered by exploitation of resources and disregard of the tribes’ rights and ancestral domains particularly due to the operations of the Cellophil Resources Corporation (logging) and Chico River Dam project during the Martial Law era. In 1974 there were already company- sized CPP-NPA formations in the region. Some of the heaviest fighting by the NPA forces against the AFP took place in the Cordilleras. However, due to ideological and tactical differences, the Lumbaya Company of the NPA stationed in Kalinga, formally split from the CPP/NPA on April 7, 1986. The Cordillera NPAs led by the rebel priest Conrado Balweg realized that the Communist ideology runs counter to the aspirations of the Cordillera people. The Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army was subsequently formed in March 1, 1986 and has since got in conflict with the NPAs.
As the new batches of the 5ID soldiers are mostly the sons and daughters of the former CPLA, they have now become the extension of their fathers’ aspirations. The AFP has thus acquired a strong ally in the performance of its duties for the furtherance of peace and development efforts in the Cordillera region.
For some, integration is perceived to be a part of peace agreements to accommodate former rebels for livelihood purposes. In 5ID, the integration of the former CPLA members and their next-of- kin, will not only help alleviate the economic conditions of the former CPLA members and their families but will also make a difference in the implementation of the IPSP Bayanihan in the Cordillera region. This will also highlight the purpose and meaning of the painstaking efforts of the government thru the OPAPP to reach out to former adversaries of the state for the realization of lasting peace and stability in the land.
ABOUT THE WRITER:
LTC FERDINAND MELCHOR C DELA CRUZ PA is a former Commander of the 50th Infantry Battalion, 5th Infantry Division, Philippine Army which has jurisdiction on Internal Security Operations along the tri-boundaries of Abra, Mt Province and Ilocos Sur. He has conceptualized an implementing plan to the AFP IPSP Bayanihan dubbed as the BODONG for Peace and Development which stands for Bayanihan Operation Designed to Obtain National Goals that specifically applies in the Cordillera region. BODONG stands for a peace pact or peace council among the Cordillera tribes.