In February 1986, the dictator Marcos was ousted. The Filipino people, including those in the region rejoiced. Expectations were high that with a new government installed into power in the aftermath of a popular uprising, indigenous people’s rights would finally be recognized.
Cordillera Day that year was a big celebration held in Bontoc, Mountain Province. Shortly after Cordillera Day 1986, the CPA had a meeting with President Corazon Aquino in Malacañang on April 29. The agenda of CPA included 1) the cancellation of Chico and Cellophil; 2) an end to militarization in the region; 3) the return of the lands expropriated from the Taloy folk in Tuba for the Marcos Park; 4) democratic participation in the choice of OICs for the local government units in the region; and 5) the recognition of ancestral land rights and self-determination for the indigenous peoples.
The new president said that many of the demands had to be addressed by legislation, and that a new Constitution still had to be drafted. The CPA then asked for the appointment of a CPA representative to the Constitutional Commission to help draft the provisions for the recognition of indigenous people’s rights in the Constitution. The president agreed to this in front of the whole CPA council. When the time to do so came, however, she reneged on her promise, saying that CPA was leftist.
Thus began the red-baiting and attacks on the CPA under the Cory Aquino administration, especially when it went into an alliance with the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army. The State went into a systematic effort to isolate and marginalize the CPA, notwithstanding that we were at the forefront of the anti-dictatorship struggle in the Cordillera, and were the ones who had popularized the issues of ancestral land and regional autonomy as our form of self-determination.
But, riding on the crest of the anti-dictatorship struggle, it was the CPA that mobilized a region-wide lobby of the Constitutional Commission for the inclusion of the provisions on ancestral land (Article VII, Section 5) and regional autonomy (Article X, Section 15) in the new Constitution which was ratified in 1987.