Igorot farmers rise against betrayal and plunder
Rodrigo Duterte is a lot of things but ‘enabler of criminal gangs’ is not least of them. One month before the world celebrate peasants and farmers, he again commemorated Conrado Balweg who swindled, murdered, looted and exploited indigenous tribes in the Cordillera, most of which are farming families. The past few years have seen him exaggerating the supposed significance of a bastardized version of a ‘sipat’ between that counterrevolutionary and that known mass murderer of protesting peasants Cory Aquino.
Truly, the Duterte administration owes these farmers recognition that should be much more significant than what it gave Balweg last month. As the world marks peasant month this October, the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front leads the farmers among its ranks in their call for long overdue attention to their plight. Their calls for wholesale ownership and control of their ancestral land, opportunities for developments in farming and an end to liberalization in agriculture reverberate much louder than the sham of September 13, 1986.
Conrado Balweg: The Traitor
Traditionally, the sipat is an exchange of peace tokens between warring tribes. It leads to bodong (peace talks) and then to pagta (peace agreement). Expectedly, the essence of the whole procedure is lost on Aquino and her ilk. But Balweg is a different matter. He shrewdly manipulated the tribal peace process to mask his surrender and capitulation, escape accountability for his crimes and gain notoriety for supposedly achieving Cordillera ‘autonomy.’
Yet, Balweg’s CPLA (Cordillera People’s Liberation Army) and the Cory Aquino regime cannot even be remotely considered warring. It already broke away from the New People’s Army (NPA), and from the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines, due to differences in ideology. Upon breaking away from the genuinely revolutionary army, it committed all manner of atrocities against the people of the Cordillera, especially in Abra and Kalinga.
Basically, Balweg, CPLA and friends wanted to conduct a Cordillera struggle totally separated from the struggles of the rest of the Filipino people. In turn, the leadership of the NPA units in the region held fast to the basic principles of national democratic revolution.
History shows which ideas are correct and revolutionary.
In truth, the ‘sipat’ was conducted to undercut the struggle of the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera. Less than a year from this farce, on July 15, the Cordillera Administrative Region was created through Executive Order 220. Thus, it completed the illusion of an end to the national minorities’ struggle for self-determination. And yet, this collusion only paved the way for further destruction and plunder of ancestral domain and even genocide.
Plunder and destruction
A glaring example of such destruction is the proposed construction of Gened Hydroelectic Power Plant in Apayao-Abulug River. The project will comprise of seven dams and the first two is already underway despite the people’s resistance to it. Gened 1 (height of 60 meters) and Gened 2 will already cover 2,865 hectares with a potential to generate 490 megawatts of electricity. The reservoir will claim no less than 2,800 hectares. If it pushes through, it will directly affect 20 barangays with 13,000 residents (2015 population). To compare, the Magat Dam yields 360 megawatts and covers 1,170 hectares. Worse, this is just the beginning of certain further destruction.
Dams are already known as the single most destructive energy project in the whole world. It displaces indigenous and farming families, takes away their sources of livelihood and renders ancestral territories into non-existence. And yet, these megadams, or any capitalist venture for that matter, does not benefit the communities. After laying hectares of ancestral land to waste, investors will sell to the foreign-owned National Grid Corporation of the Philippines. It will then sell electricity to industries and cooperatives. Moreover, the funds incurred to finance the project is part of the onerous debt Duterte owes China but will be paid by the Filipino people.
The struggle to clarify history goes hand in hand with the struggle to ensure a future for the Isnag of Apayao. It is a struggle for revolutionary justice. Duterte can keep on harking about the supposed importance of the sipat that Balweg was involved in but nothing can deny the fact that he is a traitor to the revolution. His crimes against the people warranted capital punishment and it was the revolutionary NPA that meted it out. The NPA and the armed struggle they wage will always be for the protection and interest of the impoverished and exploited masses.
Similarly, it was armed struggle that ensured people’s victory against the Chico River Basin Development Project and the Cellophil Resources Corporation in the 70s. The people were so open to the idea of armed uprising that Marcos had no choice but to recognize the widespread resistance. It is a history lesson that rings resoundingly true up to this day and if Duterte was any smarter, he would take a lesson from his idol. If not, the unfortunate Duterte would be acquainted with the Igorot warrior who knows his history and his own revolutionary strength.
Long live the democratic forces and liberating army of the peasant class!
Advance the armed revolution in defense of the right to self-determination!
Resist the plunder and destruction of ancestral territories!