BODONG FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT

In a rare occasion, LTC DELACRUZ pooled the leaders of the  different CPLA-CBA factions for a night of “peace and unity”

 

BODONG FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT- A LOCALIZED IPSP FOR THE CORDILLERAS

By

LTC FERDINAND MELCHOR C DELACRUZ PA, 5ID, PA

 

INTRODUCTION

The implementation of the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) “Bayanihan” which focuses on intensified stakeholders’ involvement in the whole-of-the-nation approach to address the long-time insurgency problems is gaining grounds in the Internal Security Operations of the AFP.

In the Cordilleras, the IPSP is even deemed to be more effective with the engagement of stakeholders such as the elders and the former CPLA members who now have their sons and daughters integrated in the AFP and DENR as a result of the Peace Accord with the government. It may be recalled that the formation of the CPLA was an offshoot of a split by the Cordillera NPAs (Lumbaya Company) from the CPP-NPA due to ideological differences.

Considering these factors, a localized implementing plan to the IPSP Bayanihan is conceptualized in order to optimize its gains for the internal security operations of 5ID, PA in the region.

 

THE BODONG for Peace and Development

BODONG is a Peace Pact or Peace Council practiced by some tribes in the Cordillera region. For the IPSP, the term is used to localize the implementation of the Internal Peace and Security Plan for the Cordilleras. BODONG is actually an acronym for Bayanihan Operations Designed To Obtain National Goals. The salient features of the BODONG for Peace and development are: the active involvement of Cordillera soldiers as main actors in its implementation; the gains derived from the GPH-CPLA Peace Process and; the “elders” involvement as important stakeholders.

 

HIGHLANDER SOLDIERS AS MAIN ACTORS

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 in some cases, for prestige and manhood. Strangers or even the “lowlanders” are 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.

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 because the autonomy status 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 have since been integrated to the AFP. Additionally, there are also those who were enlisted through the regular processing at the 5th Infantry Division, PA 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 slowly being realized.

It may also be important to consider that the split of the Cordillera NPAs (Lumbaya Company) from the CPP-NPA is due to ideological differences as the leaders realized that the Communist ideology runs counter to the aspirations of the Cordillerans and that the CPP-NPA just took advantage of the fierceness and experience of the indigenous peoples in fighting. This then gave way to the formation of the CPLA which has since been in war with the CPP-NPA even after its Peace Pact with the government. With the integration of the next-of-kin of the former CPLA members not to discount the former CPLA members themselves who are still serving the AFP, the aspirations of Fr Balweg and the Lumbaya Company to rid the Cordilleras of communist insurgents have not died down.

 

GAINS FROM GPH-CPLA Peace Process

A critical factor in the present insurgency war that the government is still fighting is the organization and recruitment of the masses to wage a “national democratic revolution” The integration by the former CPLA members or their next- of- kin to the AFP and DENR as forest guards and, the grant of livelihood and development projects to Peoples’ Organizations in the Cordilleras as a result of the MOA between GPH-CPLA resulted to the organization and counter-organization particularly of the youth who have been the targets for recruitment and organizing by the insurgents.

 

ELDERS AS IMPORTANT STAKEHOLDERS

In the Cordilleras, the elders have a strong influence in the decision making not only in the family but the community (tribe) as well. There had been recorded cases when soldiers are saved from ambush/harassment of insurgents due to the indulgence of the elders. In like manner, there were also instances when soldiers are disgraced merely because of disrespect to elders. It may be worthy to note that one of the reasons for the agitation of the people in joining the CPP-NPAs in the 70s is the killing of an elder Macliing Dulag which was blamed on the government security forces then operating in the area.

 

CONCLUSION

The BODONG for Peace and Development combines the active participation of Cordillera soldiers for a more intimate soldier-constituent relationship, the gains and peace dividends acquired through peace negotiations and, the active involvement of the elders which are not given importance in other areas. This does not only give a sense of ownership for Cordillera soldiers who are the main actors in the implementation of the Peace and Security Plan. It also gives opportunity for stakeholders such as the former CPLA members, the elders and the locales who have become part of the AFP to have share in the realization of a genuine and lasting peace in the Cordilleras.

 

The concept was a product of consultations and workshops with senior AFP Officers from the Cordilleras in 5ID, PA (COL SOLIBA, COL BALUYAN, COL PUYAO), elders, former CBA-CPLA leaders and the academe. Highlander refers to people who come from the mountains. For the purpose of this paper, this will refer to the Cordillera soldiers. A term used by the CPP to give a strong political color to its efforts to topple the government thru armed struggle.

 

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.