A resounding call to fight the Duterte regime’s tyranny and assert Cordillera indigenous peoples (IP) rights to our ancestral lands and self determination marked the successful regionally centralized celebration of the 34th Cordillera Day held from April 22-24, 2018 in Baguio City.
Bearing the theme “Unite to resist tyranny! Assert our right to self determination!”, the celebration was co-hosted by the Tongtongan Ti Umili – Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) Metro Baguio Chapter, Ibagiw alliance of Ibalois in Baguio and Benguet, and the Barangay Council of the Barangay Asin Road. It was participated by 1,500 indigenous peoples and advocates from all Cordillera provinces, Baguio City, Ilocos Region, Cagayan Region, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, National Capital Region, provinces in Visayas and Mindanao, and various countries (USA, Canada, Australia, Timor Leste, Belgium, Japan, The Netherlands).
The celebration kicked off with an opening ritual performed by Ibaloi elders and led by Ibagiw and the Metro Baguio Tribal Elders and Leaders Assembly (MBTELA). Following this, more than 30 priests, pastors, seminarians and church workers led an ecumenical service, which expressed the solidarity and support of church denominations to the Cordillera indigenous peoples. Below are key results and highlights of the three-day celebration.
Education and Exchange
Cordillera Day 2018 served as venue for Cordillera indigenous peoples and IP advocates to learn and understand the current issues and developments in the region and the country; come out with analysis and position on the key issues affecting Cordillera peoples; and mobilize solidarity support for the Cordillera peoples’ struggles.
Inputs and inspirational messages from former Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Judy Taguiwalo who delivered a Keynote Address, former Department of Agriculture Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Renato Reyes, Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Carlos Zarate, Anakpawis Partylist Representative Ariel Casilao, ACT Teachers Partylist France Castro, and former Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño provided an understanding of the current situation in the country and the challenges under the intensifying tyranny of the Duterte regime.
Through simultaneous workshops, the delegates were able to have focused discussions on various issues affecting Cordillera peoples, including Charter Change, Federalism and Genuine Regional Autonomy; Small Scale Mining; Development Aggression and Tyranny, Impact of TRAIN Law on Peasants; Indigenous Peoples Education; and Jeepney Operators and Drivers Issues. Lawyers, law students and paralegal individuals held a Legal Clinique on Human Rights Violations, which provided a venue for Cordillera community representatives to enhance their work on documenting human rights violations. A workshop on community mapping, specifically counter-mapping, was also held to help equip community organizations with visual representations of their aspirations and the threats to communities and natural resources.
Youth and students discussed their issues and concerns in a Cordillera Youth Summit, which developed the Cordillera youth and students’ situationer and agenda. Cultural workshops were also held, which were participated by mostly young people to learn Cordillera music, instruments and visual arts. National and international delegates conducted learning exchanges on IP issues and experiences, which resulted in a statement of solidarity with the Cordillera IPs.
Inputs on the Cordillera Situation, Lessons from the Cordillera Mass Movement and Challenges, and Tyranny in the Cordillera by CPA leaders provided an overview of Cordillera issues and the past and present peoples’ experiences in resisting tyranny and asserting our rights to our ancestral lands and self determination.
The workshops came out with resolutions on some of the specific issues affecting Cordillera IPs. These include a resolution on Charter change, federalism and genuine regional autonomy, which called for the rejection of Charter change, the assertion of genuine regional autonomy as the appropriate form of self determination for Cordillera indigenous peoples, active participation in public consultations, and wider education and awareness-raising on Charter change, federalism and genuine regional autonomy.
A resolution from the Workshop on Development Aggression and Tyranny, expressed commitment to disallow any further destructive projects in the region, courageously fight for human rights and right to land, life, resources and self determination, and expose and oppose the role of the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA) in serving the Duterte regime’s tyranny in the region. The resolution also called for an investigation by Congress and government agencies on the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project and the Philippine government loan for the project.
The resolution on small-scale mining called for the scrapping of the Minahang Bayan as this only favor big companies, lacks recognition of collective rights of communities in small-scale mining, and is not appropriate under the current context. Other resolutions called for the rejection of anti-people policies and programs of the Duterte regime, such as the Jeepney Phase-out, and the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law.
March Against Tyranny
On April 24, Cordillera Day delegates protested the Duterte regime’s tyranny in a march-rally held at the center of Baguio City. The delegates were joined by various organizations and religious groups headed by the Coalition for Justice. In a program held in front of the Supreme Court, the people condemned the Quo Warranto petition against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and demanded that the Supreme Court justices and the government uphold democracy, rule of law and judicial integrity. Cordillera elders performed an indigenous ritual calling for a stop to the culture of impunity, injustices and unpeace that are being espoused by the regime.
CPA condemned the intensifying political vilification and terrorist tagging and proscription of legitimate peoples’ organizations and indigenous human rights defenders. Early in the morning on April 21, fliers were distributed and scattered in Lagawe, Ifugao, which maligned local organizations and their members as “terrorists.” CPA also denounces the Baguio City Police Office’s “Security Coverage Report re: 34th Cordillera Day Celebration of LLO,” which was circulated in social media on April 25. The report was “based on intelligence monitoring and security coverage on the march” and listed 30 names of “identified personalities,” some of who have not participated in the march or the Cordillera Day celebration, and another list of 30 organizations and delegations. These are clear acts of State terrorism, which put at risk the lives of indigenous activists and human rights defenders. But the Cordillera people’s movement will not cower, and instead gained a renewed strength and vigor from the Cordillera Day celebration.
Cordillera Movement Against Tyranny and Declaration Against Tyranny
Among the significant results of the Cordillera Day celebration was the formation of the Cordillera Movement Against Tyranny (CMAT), which aims to unite all freedom loving people in the region against tyranny and build a broad front to counter the increasing fascism, militarist rule and development aggression of the Duterte regime. Fifty five (55) individuals from various provinces and sectors formed the CMAT Convenors. CMAT serves as the regional formation of the national alliance Movement Against Tyranny.
Another concrete output of the 34th Cordillera Day was the Cordillera Declaration Against Tyranny, which was approved and signed by the delegates. The declaration embodies the peoples’ unity and solidarity to uphold that legitimate dissent and activism is noble and is an obligation of the people under a tyrant, to mobilize (Mabtad) and defend peoples’ rights, and to collectively resist and overcome tyranny and to fight for self determination.
Once again, the peoples’ Cordillera Day served as the organized expression of the Cordillera peoples’ struggle for our rights to our ancestral lands and self determination. CPA is grateful to all individuals and organizations for their presence, support and solidarity, including the numerous solidarity messages sent by those who were unable to participate in person
For reference: Bestang Dekdeken