CAMP MELCHOR DELA CRUZ, Isabela - - Be the conscience of a true soldier and embrace professionalism in the military.
This was the message of Ifugao Governor Denis Habawel to the 69 former members of the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA) who are integrated to the Armed Forces of the Philippines(AFP) following their completion of a 6-months rigid military training here.
The group composing Class 347-13 is the last batch of former CPLA members who surrendered their arms and opted for integration into the AFP, an option provided in the closure agreement between the former rebels and the government.
The graduates are composed of 57 males and 12 females. 58 of them are from Kalinga, 6 from Apayao, 3 from Mt. Province, and one each from Abra and Ifugao.
“For choosing the path for peace, you are true and reasonable men and women in the sense that it answers the calling of our conscience to spare the Filipino race from fighting each other but instead should work together for peace and development, Habawel told the new soldiers as he challenged them to become assets in the campaign for peace not only in the Cordillera but the entire nation.
“And this is it, that we are together working for a common cause to help uplift the life standard of our brethren in the Cordilleras and protect the environment from getting worst,” he added.
The integrees will have a short break while waiting for their assignment the area of responsibility of the 5th Infantry Division.
Aside from integration of qualified CPLA members into the AFP, the closure agreement provides for community-identified projects, livelihood and employment support for CPLA members. Dozens of CPLA members were employed as “bantay gubat” under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Various infrastructure projects were also released in the areas of the CPLA through the Pamana projects of the Aquino administration as peace dividends.
The CPLA had carried the struggle against perceived development inequality that eventually led to the inclusion of a provision in the new Constitution for the creation of an autonomous region in the Cordilleras.