No less than the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza said the Cordillerans should be proud for being “the first to prove that the pursuit of an ideal is possible under a democratic political climate”.

In his speech which was delivered by Director Susan  Marcaida of the Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process (OPAPP) in Baguio City on July 15, 2016, the Culmination Program of the Cordillera Region’s 29th Founding Anniversary, the Secretary said that the Cordillerans demonstrated that a legitimate grievance can be addressed without the need for arms and violent conflict.

“Our partnership has tried to put an honourable end to the army that has once defended and upheld the rights of the generation that started the struggle for self-determination and autonomy”, the Secretary added, citing the  engagement of the government under the late President Corazon C. Aquino with the Cordillera Bodong Administration (CBA) and the former Cordillera People’s Liberation Army  (CPLA), now the Cordillera Forum for Peace and Development.

It can be recalled that it was in September 13, 1986 when the late President Corazon Aquino paved the way for lasting peace in the Cordillera through an indigenous treaty known as “Sipat”. During this historic moment, the government exchanged “peace tokens” with the CPLA to mark an end to hostilities. The Cordillera people gave the government a spear and shield, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) presented an Armalite, and a Bible and rosary came from the late President.   That pact is now popularly known as the Mount Data Peace Accord.

A few months after, ratified in a plebiscite was the new Constitution that included a provision for the establishment of the autonomous region in the Cordillera and Muslim Mindanao.  In July 1987,  the Cordillera Administrative Region was created through Executive Order 220 for the purpose of paving the way for the way for the establishment of an autonomous region in the Cordillera.

Twenty-nine years and two failed plebiscites later, the Cordillera Region continues to peacefully pursue its dream of becoming autonomous.  The Secretary however assured the Cordillerans that this dream remains a legitimate advocacy of the region and its peoples, even as the administration of President Duterte is strongly pushing for a federal  form of government within his term.

His speech ended by encouraging the Cordillerans to study federalism more closely and collectively discuss how the region can benefit from it,  because, as he aptly put it,  “in the end, and with the help of the people, it will all be worth it.”