Chico River heroes’ marker of Cordillerans: follow footsteps, continue the struggle

Kodao Photo

By Reynard Magtoto

26April2017 (BicolToday.com) – “Ama Macliing was not just my father. He was our father, a father of the Cordillerans. This marker is ours to be proud of,” Robert Macliing expressed gratitude for the honor bestowed to Ama Macliing, one of the leading martyrs depicted in the memorial marker.

“The challenge as Macliing’s children is to strive to follow on his footsteps and continue his struggle for the defense of the homeland,” he added.

Cordillerans opened a shrine in honor of the three leading martyrs of the struggle against Ferdinand Marcos’ Chico River Mega-Dam project in Tinglayan town in Kalinga on April 23, along the Bontoc-Tinglayan Road in Bugnay village.

Three steel markers represented the images of Ama Macliing Dulag, Pedro Dungoc and Lumbaya Gayudan who led the struggle against the World Bank-funded dam project that threatened to submerge Kalinga and Mountain province communities, ricefields and burial grounds.

Other Cordillera heroes were Kathlyn Iyabang-Atumpa, Guzman Gunday, Julio Dulanag, Pingwot Dawing, Yag-ao Ebulwang, Daniel Ijog, Orchag Olyog, Simeon Talis, Dalunag Dawadaw, Gaspar Yag-ao and Elena Edpis that were also etched at the marker.

The memorial marker highlighted the 33rd year of celebrating Cordillera Day that has been held for the past three decades to bring to the fore the burning issues confronted by the Cordillera peoples and unite their ranks to enable them to firmly address these.

Rev. Brent Harry Alawas, a bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Philippines (EDNP), said it is fitting that the memorial marker is established in Bugnay village, Macliing’s village, the Chico dam struggle’s first martyr.

On April 24, 1983, soldiers led by Lt. Leodegario Adalem raided Bugnay to look for Macliing and Pedro who were then active leaders in the struggle against the projects.

Macliing was killed that night but Pedro survived. Pedro later decided to take up arms and join the New People’s Army (NPA) in his continuing pursuit to defend his people and his homeland.

Bishop Alawas said that the first team to respond to the murder of Macliing was from the EDNP in Bontoc. He said then Bishop Richard Abellon sent his staff Benedict Solang and Victor Ananayo, village leader Eduardo Akiate and Elizabeth Dirige of Bontoc on April 26, 1980 to investigate the incident.

The team threaded through several military checkpoints and gathered information on the killing of Macliing they then made public upon returning to Bontoc. The initial EDNP fact-finding report was followed up with subsequent missions and protest actions by various groups.

Kodao Photo

State Forces harassment continues

Joined forces of 50th Infantry Battallion-Philippine Army and Philippine National Police (PNP) held and harassed Cordillera Day delegates on April 23 along the road at Barangay Balantoy, Balbalan, Kalinga province.

The troopers led by a 50th Infantry Battallion-PA 1st Lt. Julius Ian Daclag Maestrado flagged down the convoy of about 13 vehicles saying they were just ensuring peace and security.

Jeepneys and a minibus ferrying Cordillera Day delegates from Ifugao were held while Ifugao Peasant Movement’s Brandon Lee’s personal belonging were searched. Lee said the soldiers also asked him about Kennedy Bangibang, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace panel consultant for national minority affairs.

Lee said the soldiers asked for his ID when they found out Bangibang was not among the delegates.

Lt. Maestrado then ordered Lee to alight from the bus, who refused by demanding for a search warrant. He showed Lee a text message from an unknown sender ordering the troops to hold the minibus and look for “Fernando Alikes,” “Ka Sarah” and Lee.

“The description of me in the text message—from my hair to my beard and my six-pocket pair of pants—were correct. It was only the color of my shoes the text message had wrong,” Lee said.

Lee suspects the harassment is connected to an incident involving a suspected state intelligence agent just as their convoy left Lagawe, Ifugao yesterday morning. He said he confronted the suspected agent upon noticing he was taking photos of the delegation during a send off prayer.

Lee said the soldier were in full battle gear with assaults rifles that terrorized women and children of the delegation.

The convoy was allowed to pass through the checkpoint after Lee’s bag was searched. “We were held for nearly an hour and it was already late in the evening so I finally allowed them to see the contents of my bag, but under protest,” Lee said.

Lee was among the activists who received death threats and harassed from suspected state security forces in 2015.

The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance has condemned the incident saying the checkpoint was a violation of human rights and the International Humanitarian Law.

“The state forces did not have any legal basis to conduct the checkpoint and conduct searches of a civilian activity such as the Cordillera Day. They even claimed to search for armed combatants among the civilian delegation,” CHRA said commending the delegation for persisting and asserting their rights.

Advancing interests of Cordillera peoples

Currently, both parties – GRP and NDFP – are forging a comprehensive agreement on social and economic reforms. An important part of the agreement being advanced by the NDFP is the particular section on the rights of national minorities. The section on national minorities was completed after special consultations with their representatives, including leaders of the Cordillera People’s Alliance which organized this celebration.

NDFP assures that its Negotiating Panel will advance these proposals in the peace negotiations.

“Genuine autonomy will be guaranteed within the framework of the people’s democratic republic of the Philippines, wherein the structure of government will ensure full participation and decisive say by the people of the autonomous areas on all matters affecting their lives, recognition of their right to ancestral land, priority in employment and economic opportunities, with returns from the economic development of their areas mainly accruing to them to hasten their social progress, while respecting their tradition and culture,” stated Fidel Agcaoili, NDFP Negotiating Panel chair.

“Thus, whether in the short or long term, on or outside of the negotiating table, the national-democratic revolution that the NDFP represents is advancing the interests of the Cordillera peoples,” Agcaoili added in a statement.

According to Agcaoili, it would be fine if the lives of the Cordillera peoples can be uplifted through the peace talks. But whatever is accomplished in the peace negotiations, their decisiveness to intensify their struggle for self-determination, ancestral land and honor will certainly pave a clear path towards the fulfillment of the great aspirations of the heroic peoples of the Cordillera.

“The Cordillera peoples must step up the struggle against the massive seizure of their ancestral lands and natural resources by imperialists and the local exploiting classes, which further creates widespread poverty in the Cordillera and worsens the discrimination and abuse of its people,” Agcaoili said. [With report from Kodao]

Posted by on April 26, 2017. Filed under Headlines,Regions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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