Agbiag ti Umili ti
Keynote Speech of
Dr. Carol P. Araullo, BAYAN Chairperson during the 24th Cordillera
Day Celebration in Brgy. Poblacion. Baay Licuan, Abra April 24,
"Life! If life is threatened,
what should we do? RESIST! This we must do, otherwise, we are dishonored
and that is worse than death. If we do not fight, we die anyway.
If we fight, we die honorably... and our children may win and keep
this land. And the land shall become even more precious when nourished
by our sweat and blood."-Macliing Dulag
In the early years of the Marcos dictatorship, when
martial rule still struck terror in the hearts of many, Macliing
Dulag led the Kalinga people's resistance against the construction
of the Chico Dam. The dam would have driven them from their ancestral
lands, destroyed their source of livelihood, and submerged everything
they held sacred under tons of mud and water. It would have buried
their past, obliterated their identity as a people, and destroyed
their future in the name of "development" and "progress".
The resistance to the Chico Dam so effectively dramatized the struggle
of the Igorots - the name the Cordillera peoples collectively call
themselves - against national oppression, exploitation and discrimination.
Such that when Macliing Dulag was gunned down by government troops
on April 24, 1980, he rose to become the symbol of the Cordillera
people's struggle for self-detemination.
Every year since 1985, a large, mixed group of youth,
workers, urban poor, peasants, church people and professionals,
some of them foreigners, trek to a chosen place somewhere in the
Cordillera on April 24 to celebrate "Cordillera Day".
The occasion highlights the unity and resolve of the peoples of
the Gran Cordillera mountain ranges to persist in their struggle
for their ancestral domain; for the right to practice and develop
their indigenous socio-political systems and to maintain their cultural
integrity; for the right to self-determination ; and their basic
human rights-against the anti-people and anti-national schemes of
the imperialists and the local puppet state as exemplified by the
current US-Arroyo regime.
This year, three busloads and half a dozen other
vehicles left Metro-Manila Monday evening and arrived in the wee
hours of the 22nd here at San Miguel, Abra, where we were met by
peasants, workers, youth and professionals of the Cordillera. We
recall that also in the early 70s, the Tinggians of Abra waged a
resolute struggle against the Cellophil Resources Corporation, forcing
it to shut down. Today, Abra remains one of the poorest provinces
in the country with a record number of OFWs. It is once again being
targeted by multinational corporations, this time for mining operations.
As before, local government officials serve as the multinationals'
agents, misrepresenting mining as the solution to unemployment and
poverty in the province.
This year's theme for Cordillera Day, "Resist
Mining Plunder and State Terrorism" addresses the current situation
and challenge in the Cordillera as well as nationwide. The 1995
Philippine Mining Act opened up to foreign corporations as much
as 15 million hectares. More than half of these are in indigenous
territory, with six of 23 priority projects in the Cordillera. The
immediate result is the displacement of indigenous peoples and other
poor farming communities, driving them into greater poverty, misery
and social and cultural degradation. The end result is the destruction
of the land and the environment which, for the indigenous peoples,
is the fountainhead of life, of their collective identity and of
their livelihood passed down from one generation to the next. As
early as the American colonial period, the Cordillera became known
for its copper and gold mines, of which the biggest were eventually
owned by Americans. The exploitation of mining resources in the
Cordillera by foreigners, as of other natural resources all over
the country, continued well beyond the granting of formal Philippine
independence in 1946, as US imperialism continued to dominate and
plunder the Philippine economy through unequal treaties and sheer
One would think that after a century of exploitation
and oppression, there would be nothing left for foreign capital
to extract from the Cordillera or for that matter from the rest
of our islands. But that is not the logic of imperialism. Contrary
to claims that "globalization" would bring prosperity
and progress to all, including Third World countries, the entire
world capitalist system has gone into chronic stagnation and ever
deeper crises. To escape from the rut of overproduction, highly
industrialized economies constantly pass on the burden to the Third
World economies, pushing them deeper and deeper into the ocean of
debt and depression. Neoliberal globalization has only further opened
up the Philippine economy to exploitation and plunder by foreign
capital, stunting and then destroying our own industries and rendering
our economy even more dependent and vulnerable.
Invariably, as the people awaken and struggle against
increasingly intolerable exploitation and oppression by multinational
corporations and their local comprador partners, the puppet state's
iron hand strikes swiftly and ruthlessly. Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL),
the Arroyo regime's counter-insurgency campaign, has gone beyond
intensifying military operations against the NPA while terrorizing
the civilian population in the countryside. It has targeted progressive
leaders, mass activists and even professionals for assassination,
abduction, illegal arrest, torture and prolonged detention. Militarization
has extended into urban areas including Metro Manila communities.
Even without the formal declaration of martial rule, such fascist
brutality continues with impunity in the name of "counter-terrorism",
under the aegis of the US-led "war on terror". This is
state terrorism at its naked worst, beyond all bounds of law, morality
and human decency.
The people's resistance to the plunder of our natural
resources has strategic importance, particularly for the generations
still to come. At the same time, the people's resistance to state
terror under the Arroyo government serves to defend the people's
democratic and fundamental human rights, and contributes to the
eventual downfall of this corrupt, illegitimate and puppet regime
while weakening imperialism's stranglehold in this part of the world.
For it is only under a truly free and democratic
state that the national patrimony could be developed to benefit
the Cordillera people and the Filipino people for generations to
Long live the Cordillera People! #