Military coercing local government units through draconian Memorandum of Agreement

Spokesperson, Cordillera Peoples' Democratic Front

The latest maneuver of the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army to impose a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on local provincial executives is a desperate and coercive measure that worsens the national oppression of the national minorities in the Cordillera Region.

Drafts of the MOA have been pressed by the 5th ID to the local provincial executives and the police superintendents of Ifugao and the Mountain Province. A similar MOA was signed between the local provincial executive of Kalinga and the commanding officer of the 5th ID. When signed, the MOA makes the 5th ID a virtual higher authority over the provincial governments. It violates the principle of civilian supremacy over the military.

The MOA is based on several controversial laws such as Gloria Arroyo's Executive Order 773 and EO 739 which were severely criticized in 2009 by the Senate and many local government officials.

Under EO 773, the Philippine Army has control over local governments under the guise of Peace and Order Councils (POC). These POCs will turn local government and police forces into adjuncts of the military in their counter-insurgency campaign.

The MOA also calls for local governments to shoulder some of the expenses in maintaining the paramilitary Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU). This passes the expense to the already financially burdened local government units (LGUs) and provides an easy way for the military generals to save on expenses, and possibly line their pockets with public funds. LGU funds and resources that can be put to better use for the people will be diverted to unproductive counter-insurgency operations.

The MOA is similar to the draconian divide-and-rule tactics of the Marcos dictatorship and the subsequent regimes that miserably failed to stem the revolutionary tide, and rammed development aggression down the throats of the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera.

For as long as there are local dogs of war such as Gen. Gomez, Col. Bismarck Soliba and Col. Miguel Puyao Jr. who are hell-bent and ever ready to use their own province as a laboratory for new counter insurgency operations, the atmosphere of fear and disquiet will prevail in the mountain villages of the Cordillera. If Igorot military officers are willing and ready to sacrifice their kailian (townmates) for the advancement of their military careers, then they will exacerbate the misery of the people.

The MOA fits in with the peace and order situation demanded by the planned exploration activities of the Cordillera Exploration Inc. (CEXI)/Anglo-American PLC Group in 1,800 hectares covering three municipalities in western Mountain Province, as well as the planned geothermal power plants in the boundaries of Ifugao and Benguet provinces, and in Sadanga and Bontoc in Mountain Province.

It is the peace of the grave through militarization that Gen. Gomez wants to achieve through the MOA. LGU executives contemplating on signing the MOA must look closely at the general's record of deceit. Last January, Gen. Gomez went home to Bontoc to call for peace in the Mountain Province, then a few days later unleashed his troops on upland Bontoc and northern Sagada. In 1999, as commander of the 69th Infantry Battalion, he allowed his troops to engage in the shooting during the raging Dalican-Pidlisan tribal conflict. This indicates the insensitiveness of Gen. Gomez to the intricacies of Cordillera communities and shows he has no genuine interest in solving the problems of the national minorities in the Cordillera. If he continues to protect the interest of the ruling classes through aggressive military campaigns, then he inflicts harm and betrays his fellow Cordillerans. He will surely earn the mistrust and ire of the people.

The MOA is an empty and futile instrument. It will not stop the people from asserting their rights to self-determination and the defense of their ancestral land and resources.