We celebrate the 35th Cordillera Day as a continuing tradition of the defense of our ancestral land and our rights. With renewed strength and fervor, we reaffirm our fight against the worsening tyranny and fascism of the Duterte regime. The Cordillera Day celebration is a testament of the resolute and steadfast struggle of the Cordillera people for self determination and national democracy. This year’s Cordillera Day activities will be held simultaneously in the six provinces of the Cordillera (April 24 and 27) and Baguio City (April 24), and celebrated in Hong Kong (April 21). It will galvanize the peoples’ resistance against tyranny and fascism, the call for politics of change, and the struggle for self determination.
A Looming Dictatorship and the Fight of the Filipino People
The chronic economic and political crisis in the country is further worsened by the Duterte regime’s tyranny and subservience to the dictates of its imperialist masters - US and China. The intensified State terrorism and attacks against peoples’ rights, and continuous efforts towards charter change is being directed to institutionalize Duterte’s total nationwide reign of terror and further imperialist plunder – a dictatorship.
The poor and marginalized people are being pushed deeper into poverty due to the regime’s neoliberal policies and anti-people economic policies such as the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN 1 and 2) and Rice Tarrification Law. Inflation rates reach 6.- 7 % monthly resulting to soaring prices of basic commodities, transportation and services. The people, bereft of livelihood struggle to survive especially with the government’s abandonment of social services and support to agriculture. It is a great insult to families who can barely eat three times a day to say that being able to earn PHP 10,000 for a family of five is the poverty threshold.
Our country’s military, political and economic affairs continue to be dictated upon by oppressive and unequal treaties and agreements to the benefit of imperialists US and China. Among the loan agreements with China for the regime’s Build Build Build program is the P3.6-billion loan agreement for the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project. It is onerous because of the unreasonably exorbitant interest rates stated in the contract and how national sovereignty is gravely undermined by the loan conditions. The Duterte administration’s signing the agreement is an act of treason the people should hold him accountable for. The resistance against these agreements is gaining ground and it includes a petition filed at the Supreme Court aside from the review of previously won cases of territorial dispute at the international level.
To divert the people’s attention from its corruption and anti-people policies and programs, the Duterte administration continues to make noise with its flagship “war on drugs” (Oplan Tokhang), which is a sham. This has failed to solve the drug problem and only emboldened State security forces to brazenly disrespect the rule of law and State obligations to respect human rights. Under the Duterte regime, there are more than 20,000 victims of the drug war and counting, yet the big druglords and their connections in the government remain scot-free.
Legitimate people’s resistance to anti-people policies, programs and actions, an essential to a democracy is met with nationwide de facto martial law, the counter insurgency policy (Oplan Kapayapaan) and the all-out war policy against the Communist Party of the Philippines, New Peoples Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP)), even legal organizations and the critical media. Thus, human rights and democratic rights of the Filipino people are brazenly, massively and systematically violated by the Philippine government. Since his assumption to power, there are around 234 victims of political killings, and more than half a million victims of bombings, forced evacuation, harassment and political persecution of indigenous peoples and activists. Duterte’s unilateral termination of the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines proved his insincerity in addressing the roots of the armed conflict and poverty in the country.
Tyranny and Fascism in the Cordillera and Our Continuing Struggle
As a microcosm of Philippine society, the Cordillera is beset with intensified militarization, systematic attacks against indigenous communities, activists, human rights defenders and peoples’ organizations in parallel with the plunder and exploitation of resources for unbridled profit for a few. The institutionalized discrimination against indigenous peoples continues to be a scourge for Igorots.
The Cordillera land and resources remains a target for plunder and exploitation by foreign and local capitalists, with at least 102 pending mining applications covering 649,230 hectares. In addition, 87 hydropower projects and 7 geothermal projects were awarded by the Department of Energy to SN Aboitiz, Hedcor, Pan Pacific Power Corporation, Santa Clara Power Corp., Aragorn Power and Energy Corp., San Lorenzo Ruiz Builders owned by Oscar Violago and other local and multinational companies, which threaten our rivers, communities and livelihood.
Mountain Province hosts the largest mining application covering 43,000 hectares by the Cordillera Exploration Co., Inc. (CEXCI), a subsidiary of Nickel Asia and a partner of the Japanese company Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. To protect the mining application of CEXCI, the AFP and PNP have intensified military operations and encampment within communities in Besao and Sagada. This is their mandate as the government’s and private companies’ Investment Defense Forces (IDF).
The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) continues to serve as an instrument of plunder and national oppression instead of upholding indigenous peoples’ rights in all these projects. It ignored community protests as in the case of the Karayan Dam and Guined Dam. It allowed the construction of the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project without the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the affected communities in Pinukpuk, Kalinga. The NCIP has done nothing on the militarization of indigenous communities and various human rights violations therein. It has neglected and abandoned its obligations to the indigenous peoples, which is enough reason the commission should be abolished.
There are continuing efforts towards regional autonomy bill in the past years. House Bill 5343, the current legislation, failed to pass in the last Congress. The proposed bill did not come from the grassroots and was not founded on the genuine respect of our collective rights to ancestral lands and self determination within a truly democratic and sovereign Philippines.
We are deeply concerned on the government’s effort towards Charter change and fake federalism aimed at consolidating dictatorship. Charter change will worsen the national oppression of indigenous peoples and violate peoples’ rights, national freedom and democracy. It will also intensify the plunder and exploitation of our ancestral lands and resources.
As we resist, we face widespread political vilification and terrorist tagging of peoples’ organizations and individuals; the filing of false charges by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as in the case of Rachel Mariano who is currently incarcerated due to trumped-up charges filed by the 81st Infantry Battalion. The intensified military operations and offensives of the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) against the people are sowing fear and terror in communities.
Leaders of legal peoples’ organizations priorly listed by the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) in a petition to proscribe the CPP-NPA as terrorist organizations continue to be threatened. Despite the amendment with the DOJ dropping the names of CPA leaders, they remain as targets of attack by State security forces under the National Internal Security Policy Oplan Kapayapaan.
Advance the politics of change
Voting is a form of resistance. Though we have no illusion that an election can solve the rotten political system and the entrenched problems of our society, we understand that it is a venue for us to forward reforms that will truly serve the interests of the people. Politics of change means changing the political system as a springboard for genuine economic development that leads to overall progress. It means fighting against oppression and exploitation of foreign powers and a few elite for freedom and development of society. It means the recognition of our right to self determination as indigenous peoples and our own control of our ancestral lands and resources. It means an assertion towards the respect of peoples’ rights and human rights in the path to genuine peace.
In the light of the May 13, 2019 elections, Cordillera Day 2019 promotes the peoples’ electoral agenda and is an expression of our collective support for progressive candidates and partylists. At this time of intensified fascism of the Duterte regime, massive corruption and State neglect, we need to ensure our voice in the Senate and House of Representatives.
Senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares, a people’s lawyer, activist and son of a clerk and security guard, is the perfect fit for the need for a new blood in the Senate. A martial law survivor and human rights defender, Colmenares served a 3-term Bayan Muna Partylist representative (2007-2016) and has co-authored various laws on people’s welfare, including the P2,000 Senior Citizens’ Pension Hike and the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition.
Progressive partylists under the Makabayan Coalition are systematically being attacked by the AFP and PNP through red-tagging, political vilification, negative campaigning, and outright removal of campaign posters of Bayan Muna, ACT Teachers, AnakPawis, Kabataan and Gabriela. This is electoral fraud and violence which must be condemned, investigated and stopped. The odds are great but we know that the people will vote for these progressive party lists as representatives of the marginalized sectors who truly speak out and legislate laws for the interests of the majority.
Resist tyranny! Advance the politics of change and self determination!
On the 35th Cordillera Day celebration, let us further intensify our struggle against the tyranny and fascism of the Duterte regime. Assert our right to self determination and courageously fight for our land, life, and honor. Until the social pyramid structure with the few ruling elites on top is not reversed, genuine regional autonomy cannot possibly be achieved, especially so under the fascist and anti-people Duterte regime. Let us continue to draw strength, courage and inspiration from our heroes and martyrs. Let us live out the Igorot tradition of defending our land and people.as we intensify our anti-imperialist struggle against China and US.
Resolutely advance the politics of change and strive to win in the May 13 elections! Iboto si Neri Colmenares sa Senado at bumoto ng isa sa mga progresibong party list ng Koalisyong Makabayan !
Dare to struggle, dare to win! Agbiag ti umili ti Kordilyera!.
CORDILLERA PEOPLES ALLIANCE