Gamu, Isabela – Honoring the commitments they forged two years ago, the government and the Cordillera Forum on Peace and Development (CFPD), formerly known as Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA), have created new peace milestones with the integration into the army of former CPLA members and their next of kin as well as the turnover of their firearms to the government.
“We take this commitment very seriously. We see the event today as government demonstrating its fidelity to the promises it has made under the Closure Agreement and its capacity to honor lives and futures lost in past struggles,” said Undersecretary Maria Cleofe Gettie Sandoval of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
The ceremonial opening of the CFPD candidate soldiers’ army training was complemented with the symbolic disposition of firearms turned in by the former combatants on Wednesday at the 5th Infantry Division (ID) Grandstand in Camp Melchor Dela Cruz. Joining Sandoval were CFPD Chair Arsenio Humiding, Philippine Army (PA) Chief Lieutenant General Noel Coballes, and 5th ID Commander Major Gen. Joel Ibanez.
“We hope it will spur increased confidence among all stakeholders in government’s serious intent and capacity not only in concluding peace agreements but, as important, in fully implementing whatever it signs,” Sandoval added.
The Undersecretary explained that the integration of former CPLA members and their next of kin into the army forms part of the livelihood component of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed between the government and the CPLA, together with its political wing Cordillera Bodong Administration, in July 2011. Also provided in the MOA is the disposition of arms and forces as part of the CBA-CPLA’s transformation into a socio-economic, unarmed organization.
Humiding described these milestones as the fruits of their commitment to the government.
“It is a commitment we pledged to the government in the agreement,” he said. “Nakikita ng CPLA, lalong lalo na ng kolektibong liderato ng high command ng CPLA, na kapag napausad natin itong programa, yung mga susunod na di pa natin naipatupad ay maipapatupad na natin (The CPLA, especially the collective leadership of its high command, sees that if we can move this program forward, those that have not yet been implemented will already be implemented).”
A total of 168 candidate soldiers were accepted as trainees. They are set to begin their orientation and internalization process in the Division Training School.
Jordan Iwangga, one of the candidates, said it has always been his dream to become a soldier. “Gusto kong makatulong para sa kapayapaan ng bansa natin (I want to help promote peace in our country),” he stated.
The 25-year-old son of former CPLA rebels from Kalinga related how hard it was to grow up with both of his parents rarely at home. “One year old pa lang po ako nang nag-CPLA ang mga magulang ko. Mahirap na palaging wala ang mga magulang. Andun yung parang napapabayaan na kayo (I was only one year old when my parents joined the CPLA. It is difficult when parents are always gone. There were those times of feeling neglected).”
With the signing of the MOA in 2011, however, Iwangga felt proud as he considered this historic breakthrough a result of his parents' and other CPLA rebels’ struggles to achieve the peace and development that Cordillerans have been aspiring for. “Noong nagkapirmahan na ng MOA, nag-desisyon na ako na sumali sa integration program (When the MOA was signed, I decided to join the integration program),” he said.
PA Chief Lt. Gen. Coballes congratulated in his speech the new candidate soldiers. “Today marks the next chapter of your lives as you begin your training as army soldiers and become an instrument to win peace for yourselves, for your families, for the Filipino people, and for our great nation.”
Coballes said that their entrance into the service goes beyond than just having a job and getting paid. “It is a commitment for your honorable service to the Filipino nation. Ito ay hindi lamang tingnan bilang isang trabaho na magbibigay sa atin ng sweldo (Don't look at it as just a job that will provide a salary).”
The 168 trainees are composed of 147 males and 21 females. Thirty-three are college degree holders, including a registered nurse. #