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Hundreds of ex-rebels join national army

Integration marks key stage in Cordillera peace process

Hundreds of ex-rebels join national army
Former CPLA rebels enlist (photo courtesy of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) reporter, Manila

January 17, 2013

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The Philippines military has started integrating more than 250 former communist rebels and their families into the army in the north of the country, a key stage in a recent peace deal with the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA).

On Monday, the army began integrating 168 former CPLA fighters, or “principal candidates,” and 84 “alternate members” or next of kin.

These soldiers are “the best of what we can present to the government as incoming soldiers for our country,” said CPLA leader Arsenio Humiding, who now heads the Cordillera Forum on Peace and Development.

The process marks a key stage of a peace deal between the government and the CPLA signed in July which includes development projects, employment support and the dissolution of the rebel army as a fighting force.

“The challenge for all is to stay committed to what has been started and to work together for the agreement’s fruition,” said Maria Cleofe Gettie Sandoval of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Lt-Gen Anthony Alcantara of the North Luzon Command said the army was ready to receive more rebel fighters.

Established by former Divine Word priest, Conrado Balweg, the CPLA broke away from the main communist rebel group the New People’s Army in the 1980s and afterwards signed a peace deal with the government leading to a semi-autonomous region covering six provinces in the north of Luzon.

The ultimate goal of full autonomy was never achieved, however, as the new rebel administration suffered internal factionalism and frequent brutality.

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