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Setting the record straight: Commemoration of the 1986 Mt. Data Sipat is a mockery to the Cordillera peoples’ struggle and a deplorable act of historical revisionism

September 13, 2019

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) strongly denounces the activities of the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA) in Baguio City today to commemorate the September 13, 1987 Mount Data Peace Accord (Mt. Data Sipat) between former President Cory Aquino and the CPLA by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 575 by the Duterte regime. Such activities should never have been allowed, as CPLA has been declared persona non grata by the Baguio City Council in 1999.

CPA reiterates anew its position against the commemoration of the Mt. Data Sipat, which is an insult to the Cordillera peoples’ struggle for regionalization, genuine self determination and the Cordillera indigenous socio-political practice of Bodong (peace pact). Commemorating the 1986 Mt. Data Sipat is a deplorable historical misinformation and revisionism committed by the Duterte regime in complicity with the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army.

The so-called Sipat Peace Accord which was held in Mt. Data, Bauko, Mountain Province was also a mockery of the sipat as a revered practice of the bodong system. This has long been exposed as a sham and totally unacceptable, as only binodngan tribes engage in sipat. It was only done to symbolize then President Cory Aquino’s embrace of the CPLA. It was not a symbol of unity between the Cordillera people and the Cory Aquino government. Thus, there is no basis to declare September 13 as holiday because the 1986 Mt. Data Sipat does not deserve to be commemorated but must instead be condemned.

The 1986 Mt. Data Sipat Peace Accord did not create the regionalization of the Cordillera.

The movement for the regionalization of the Cordillera towards regional autonomy has been led by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance since its establishment in 1984. It was an assertion of the right to self determination with Regional Autonomy as the appropriate political form. But when the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army emerged in 1986, it coopted this political initiative to ride on the popular clamor for Regionalization and Regional Autonomy.

On April 29, 1986, CPA held a dialogue with then President Cory Aquino in Malacañang for the recognition of Cordillera indigenous peoples’ rights to ancestral lands and self determination. But Cory Aquino reneged her promises of support to the Cordillera mass movement and instead coddled the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army starting with the Mt. Data Sipat. Despite this, the CPA has successfully lobbied the Constitutional Commission for the inclusion of provisions on ancestral land (Article VII, Section 5) and regional autonomy (Article X, Section 15) in the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

The regionalization of the Cordillera was already realizable and inevitable with the momentum and popular push by the Cordillera mass movement. It was merely formalized by Cory Aquino through Executive Order 220 in 1987.

No amount of revisionism can alter the history of CPLA with its notorious human rights record and terrorism.

The 1986 Mount Data Sipat led to the bloody human rights record and terrorism of the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army, with impunity. This is marked by the murder of Cordillera Peoples Alliance officers Ama Daniel Ngayaan and Romy Gardo in 1987; Robert Estimada and Ferdinand Bragas in 1988; Ayangwa Claver, son of Atty. William “Billy” Claver who was the founding Chairperson of the CPA, in 1990; Christopher Batan in 1993; and many other victims in interior villages of the region.

CPLA’s terrorism victimized progressive Cordillera leaders and activists as well as organizations that criticized the narrow indigenist CPLA politics (formation of a “Cordillera nation” with the bodong system as its form of government) and the opportunism of its leaders. But amid the terrorism unleashed by the CPLA, the government of Cory Aquino gave its all out support. Clearly, the deafening silence of the Cory Aquino regime and the succeeding regimes on CPLA atrocities manifest government complicity in such terrorism.

In 1987, the Movement to Disband and Disarm the CPLA and other Vigilante Groups in the Cordillera was formed. In 1988, the annual Cordillera Day led by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance conducted a Peoples Tribunal on the CPLA, which declared the CPLA guilty of crimes and atrocities against the Cordillera people. The peoples’ call for the disbandment of the CPLA continues up to this day.

Through the years, the CPLA has been discredited and falling apart. A number of its members were integrated with the Armed Forces of the Philippines while some transformed into a socio-economic group of the government. The CPLA should have long been disarmed and disbanded but impunity is allowing its continued existence since they are not punished for their human rights atrocities. CPLA also becomes active when used by the government in the implementation of its counter-insurgency program.

The Duterte regime is repeating the government’s mistake of recognizing the terrorist group CPLA.

The Duterte regime issued Proclamation 575 in September 2018 declaring September 13 a special holiday to commemorate the Mt. Data Sipat despite the fact that the Mt. Data Sipat is not accepted by many Cordillera people. Why? There is no doubt the Duterte regime may use the CPLA as another instrument in further heightening state terrorism and tyranny in the Cordillera, and especially in its implementation of Executive Order 70 or its “whole of nation approach to end local communist insurgency”. EO 70 has clearly identified the Cordillera Peoples Alliance and other civil society organizations as “enemies of the state”, thereby openly targeting civilians and activists.

It is therefore imperative to be vigilant and continue to strengthen the peoples’ struggle against the tyranny of the Duterte regime and for the disbandment of the CPLA as we call for justice for victims of state terrorism, human rights violations and CPLA atrocities.

Collective memory must always be retold to defeat revisionism that threatens to distort history as in the case of the CPLA.

Stop historical revisionism!
Disband the CPLA! Justice for all victims of the CPLA!
Hold the Duterte regime accountable to CPLA terrorism!
Stop the attacks against indigenous peoples and human rights defenders!
Defeat the tyranny of the Duterte regime!
Junk Executive Order 70!


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