If not for the hard and spirited struggles waged by the national minorities with the help of the people’s army to protect the ancestral land, the Cordillera would have long been gone.
Thus declared Simon Naogsan (Ka Filiw), Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CPDF) spokesperson, on the undeniable role of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the Igorot people’s struggle for self-determination and democracy, and national liberation.
In his March 21 statement, Ka Filiw acknowledged the NPA’s painstaking mass work, social investigation and study of the particular situation of various tribes in Cordillera. In the latter part of the 70s, the revolutionary movement had already taken root in the six provinces of the Cordillera. Documents tracing the national oppression in Cordillera—the particularity of their struggle—were published.
The Chico Dam and Cellophil struggles were among the first to break the tyranny of the Marcos dictatorship. These struggles, together with the succeeding mass struggles reaching the border of Ilocos Sur, strengthened the resolve of the Igorot people to defend their ancestral land and mineral resources.
Most of the mass struggles were anti-mining, reclaiming of ancestral lands and against the destruction of the socio-political system of the Igorot people.
The revolutionary armed struggle of the Igorot people had taken its peak with the founding of the CPDF in 1989. The CPDF is the concrete form of the Igorot people’s revolutionary struggle. This is the alliance of all democratic sectors and classes in the region, and serves as the united front or NDF in the Cordillera.
The CPDF was key to the establishment of the first organs of political power up to the far-flung parts of Cordillera. With the formation of the Council of Leaders up to the municipal level, genuine democratic political power was placed in the hands of the people for the first time. This was met with intense violence by the reactionary state supported by imperialist countries with big mining interests in the mountains of the region.
The Igorot people face the challenge to carry on with the fight against destructive mining and dam and energy projects in the Cordillera. Alongside this is the intense militarization and psywar to suppress the struggle of the communities and destroy their unity. Igorot peasants and youth are coerced into enlisting as soldiers and paramilitaries, and tribal socio-political systems such as the dap-ay and bodong are being corrupted and used in “counterinsurgency.”
The fake autonomy being pushed by politicians in Cordillera also pose a challenge. Meanwhile, agricultural backwardness prevails, made even worse by government neglect. Indigenous culture and traditions are commercialized, and decadent culture is propagated to erode the militant tradition of the Cordillera people.