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Volume 2, Number 15 May 19 - 25, 2002 Quezon City, Philippines
GMA Coddling ‘Terrorist’ Force in Cordillera?
The New People’s Army (NPA) command in the Cordillera denies entering into a truce with the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) which it describes as a “terrorist band” being coddled by the Arroyo administration.
ARTEMIO A. DUMLAO
BAGUIO CITY – The New People’s Army in the Cordillera this week accused the Arroyo administration of coddling a “terrorist band” even as it denied forging a truce with the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA).
In a statement, Ka (comrade) Martin Montana, spokesperson of the NPA’s Chadli Molintas Command in the Cordillera, recalled that on Sept. 1 last year, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the Armed Forces to integrate CPLA members as military regulars. On June 1, this year, some 264 CPLA members will start training in Gamu, Isabela at the Army's 5th Infantry Division headquarters.
The rest of the 1,200 CPLA membership roll will train to be organized into six CAFGU (Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit) companies to be deployed in the six Cordillera provinces against the NPA, Montana said.
"By integrating such kind of forces into the Armed Forces, the Arroyo administration is in effect assimilating more and more criminal elements and activities into its ranks," Montana said.
Montana held the CPLA liable for "a long series of crimes against the revolution and the people," citing in particular militant Igorot leaders who had been assassinated by the CPLA.
"It (CPLA) should be disbanded and disarmed," Montana said as he called on individual CPLA members to abandon the group and submit to the NPA. In an earlier interview, Montana revealed that some CPLA members have renounced their “criminal activities” and returned to the NPA.
The CPLA was formed in 1986 by a renegade force of Conrado Balweg, then operating as a guerrilla in Abra and Kalinga. Balweg then surrendered to the Aquino administration in 1987 and negotiated for an autonomous Cordillera government.
Balweg was executed by the NPA in December 1999 on charges of "crimes against the Cordillera people."
Because the NPA considers the CPLA a “terrorist band” and a paramilitary, it cannot possibly forge a truce with any of its factions, Montana also said. He denied a news report quoting a certain Ernesto Garado (a.k.a. “Ka Sungar”) and lawyer Nestor Atitiw of the CPLA faction of Balweg regarding a supposed peace overture between the NPA and the CPLA. The report specifically quoted Atitiw of a possibility of a temporary cessation of hostilities between the two and the start of discussions on how to close ranks again and "fight for autonomy."
"The NPA vehemently denies having talked with ‘Sungar,’" Montana said. He added that contrary to Sungar’s claim, the NPA command never sent any emissary to broker a truce with them during the Cordillera Day celebration in Dupag, Tabuk, Kalinga province last April 24.
In other news reports, "Sungar" supposedly posed the idea of a truce to a "ranking officer of the Communist Party of the Philippines."
"The NPA-CMC and all its units under it continue to consider all the CPLA factions as terrorist bands, whose ringleaders are counter-revolutionary traitors and criminal mercenaries," Montana said.
Montana further rapped another faction of instigating a tribal war in which, he said, armed CPLA members tried to grab land from another tribe.
He said the CPLA faction led by Kalinga-based militiaman Jimmy Sawatang instigated a tribal war between tribesmen of Bugnay, Tingalayan town in Kalinga and Betwagan, Sadanga town in Mountain Province.
The tribal conflict has claimed the lives of 10 villagers from both sides since the last quarter of 2001. Bulatlat.com
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