By Zaff Solmerin

Posted at Kariton.Com – Tambayan ng Bayan, 2009/4/5

The over-arching interest of the CPLA concerns the federal set-up in the minds of the Arroyo Administration’s key players.

Aydinan, who as CBA Chief Executive is the head of the “revolutionary tribal government”, explains that his group proposed to then President Cory the re-organization of the country into three federal states: the areas of the Christianized Filipinos, another for the Bangsa Moro and a third for the Cordillera and other indigenous peoples.

With the Senator Aquilino Pimentel proposal drawing the state lines to coincide generally with that of the present regions, Aydinan said that would be “welcome for a start”.

Aydinan, however, insists that regional autonomy would still be applicable in a federal state consisting of the three present regions of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Ilocos, and the Cagayan Valley.

“I think it would be easier to realize a regional autonomy which includes the areas contiguous to the present CAR and inhabited by peoples of the same or related ethnicity as that of the CAR”, Aydinan said.

THE formerly fractious Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) has found unity, and is currently solidifying and energizing the Cordillera Bodong Administration (CBA) after the equally fragmented political group followed the divided army into near oblivion.

The CPLA, which represents the first of the rebel groups to come into agreement with the Philippine government, is looking at the opportunity opened by the Arroyo administration’s federal and parliamentary programs of government.

“These political schemes and the economic provisions are at the root of the effort to realize charter change. Federalism and parliamentarism were the Cordillera negotiating position with the Aquino government back in 1986,” Mailed Molina, chairman of the CPLA, said in an interview.

Elected with Molina were Michael Suggiyao, vice-chairman; Arsenio Humiding, political director; Leonardo Bun-as, chief-of-staff , and Juanita Chulsi, vice-chief-of-staff, who all go to the CPLA High Command. Also in the High Command are Abrino Aydinan, Manila representative, and Andres Ngao-i.

Later in the two-stage election process, Ngao-i was voted the Cordillera Bodong president and Aydinan, the chief executive of the CBA.

The unification of the CPLA was a long time in coming. The split happened just as the triumphant rebel army signed a comprehensive peace agreement with President Corazon Aquino in 1987.

Founding chair and the Cordillera struggle icon Fr. Conrado Balweg who was assassinated in 2001 by the rival New People’s Army had parted ways in 1988 with Aydinan who had been the CPLA’s chief negotiator and who had become the chair of the Cordillera Regional Consultative Commission, the drafter of the Organic Act of the failed regional autonomy.

But the split happened in a big way in 1994 with the joining of the forces of the Kalinga founding president of the CBA, the late Ama Yag-ao, and the Kalinga chief-of-staff of the CPLA, the late James Sawatang, with Aydinan and precipitating the separation from Balweg of the original Lumbaya Company of the NPA days which became the CPLA core.

After the integration of a company of the CPLA into the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) all drawn from the Molina-Sawatang faction when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Administrative Order No. 18 in 2001 the torturous route of factionalism took a surprise turn with the teaming up of Molina with the widow of the assassinated Balweg, and the integrated former Lumbaya Company led by Sawatang staying with Aydinan.

The rump of the Balweg faction associated with the so-called yao (Suggiyao-Edwin Muyao-Bobby Tamayao) also chose to support Aydinan and form an uneasy alliance with the AFP integrees.

The CPLA emanated from the NPA and seceded from the latter, complaining that it was not effective in fighting, assuming that it was willing to fight, for the self-determination of the Cordilleras.

Since the split the NPA has not come to terms with the independent existence of the CPLA, and the founder Balweg was assassinated essentially for the culpability of masterminding the secession.

The assassination of Balweg and the death of his widow later last year seems to have taken the steam out of the different factions and talk of the struggle with the long-time rival NPA is once more heard in CPLA meetings and tribal conclaves.

But the current topic of interest to the CPLA seems to be the charter change, which is seen to be inevitable but of uncertain content.

For instance, the CPLA are alarmed at the possibility that only economic, and nothing of political, would be pursued at the constituent assembly.

The over-arching interest of the CPLA concerns the federal set-up in the minds of the Arroyo Administration’s key players.

Aydinan, who as CBA Chief Executive is the head of the “revolutionary tribal government”, explains that his group proposed to then President Cory the re-organization of the country into three federal states: the areas of the Christianized Filipinos, another for the Bangsa Moro and a third for the Cordillera and other indigenous peoples.

With the Senator Aquilino Pimentel proposal drawing the state lines to coincide generally with that of the present regions, Aydinan said that would be “welcome for a start”.

Aydinan, however, insists that regional autonomy would still be applicable in a federal state consisting of the three present regions of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Ilocos, and the Cagayan Valley.

“I think it would be easier to realize a regional autonomy which includes the areas contiguous to the present CAR and inhabited by peoples of the same or related ethnicity as that of the CAR”, Aydinan said.

He said he believes the area of the plebiscite in which the two previous tries at autonomy were conducted was “not well thought out” in that it excluded the contiguous areas where easily the same size of population as that of the CAR lives.

During the incumbency of President Joseph “Erap” Estrada, political pressure somewhat succeeded in denying the budget to the structures of the CAR, the Cordillera Regional Assembly and Cordillera Executive Board, which partook of the nature of quasi-autonomy similar to what the Muslims had under Martial Law.

In a talk with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process last year under now Presidential Management Staff Head Hermogenes Esperon, the re-united CPLA presented a three-point concerns: the activation of (provision of budget to) the Cordillera Regional Assembly and Cordillera Executive Board; the pursuit of CPLA integration with the AFP in the context of a Regional Security Force envisioned in the governing policy, Executive Order No. 220; and another effort in a plebiscite for regional autonomy with funds for an effective campaign provided the CPLA and the CBA.