Minorities during Martial Law (Cordillera)

Also known as non-violent resistance or passive resistance, unarmed resistance is defined as opposition to a government by the use of noncooperation and other nonviolent methods, such as boycotts and protest marches. This series is dedicated to tackle unarmed resistance of minority groups during the Martial Law period, or the latter part of the Marcos administration (1972-1986). Also, the series was in response to a request of a few readers to have articles focusing on local and regional histories.
Political map of the current
Cordillera Administrative Region
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia


Once Upon A Time In Cordillera

   The area known today as Cordillera was basically the old Mountain Province when Marcos assumed the presidency in 1965. In 1966, Republic Act No. 4695 divided the old Mountain Province into Benguet, Mountain Province, Ifugao and Kalinga-Apayao. Abra had already been a separate province.

In 1972, Presidential Order 1, the Integrated Reorganization Plan, again divided the said provinces: Abra, Benguet, Mountain Province and Baguio placed in Region I. Ifugao and Kalinga-Apayao placed in Region II. In 1976, governors of the four provinces which once comprised the old Mountain Province requested a separate region covering their provinces. This was not granted by the national government, but it served as a precursor to the future Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), formed during the Corazon Aquino administration.

The Cordillerans

   Peoples of the Cordillera were loosely categorized as Igorot. However, Igorot is not an ethnic group. Ethnic groups in the Cordillera include the Tinggian (Itneg), Apayao (Isneg), Kalinga (Calinga), Balangao (Balangad), Kankanay (Northern Kankanay), Kankanaey (Southern Kankanay), Bago, Bontoc (Bontok), Ifugao, Ibaloi, Ikalahan (Kalanguya), Iwak (Iguat), and Ga’dang.

Cordillera resistance was mainly focused on the following: the Chico and the Cellophil.

Resistance to Chico

Chico Dam in Kalinga
Photo courtesy of Panoramio (Google Maps)
In 1974, the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR or NPC) proposed the Chico River Basin Development Project to increase hydroelectric power generation in the region. Being the longest river system in the Cordillera, four dams were to be constructed within course of the Chico River. The total capacity of the dams would be 1,010 megawatts (MW). Site investigations began in the 1960s, and this project would contribute 36% of the total hydroelectric energy generation targeted by 1985. Funding for the project mainly came from the World Bank (WB).

The Chico River provide for irrigation and water consumption of the Bontoc and the Kalinga. With the construction of the four dams, many of their villages would be flooded. In all, more than 100,000 Bontocs and Kalingas would be gravely affected. In the 1980 census, the Cordillera recorded a total population of 914,432. Thus, roughly 11% of the entire Cordillera population would be affected.

The response? Opposition began with numerous petitions and delegations sponsored by the affected communities to bring their grievances to the government. Some of them even went to Malacaňang, but were given a scolding and labelled by President Marcos as “sentimental.” They were also told by the President to sacrifice for “national development.”

By 1976, more than 100 opposed to the project were detained and tortured at Camp Olivas in Pampanga. In 1978, Chico IV, largest of the four dams, met more resistance. As of this time, the leaders utilized the peace pact (bodong in Kalinga, pechen in Bontoc) to organize the affected communities. In 1975, the first extensive intertribal conference was first held at Quezon City.

The NPC, already accompanied by the Philippine Constabulary (PC), could not set up their work camps for Chico IV on four (4) occasions due to continuing interference by the people. On the fourth time, a silent protest march of around 250 people moved NPC equipment from the Chico IV site at Tomiangan to the PC Camp at Bulanao. Conducted during curfew hours, the protest march covered a distance of 35 kilometers.

Faced by serious problems in building Chico IV, the President put up Manuel “Mando” Elizalde on the task to “minimize opposition to the projects.” Elizalde, appointed as Presidential Assistant on National Minorities (PANAMIN), went to bribe the people of the troubled area with money, food, chocolates, basketballs, flashlights, etc. Besides bribery, Elizalde also armed one of the communities in order to spark a tribal war. Apparently, the people suspected Elizalde’s policies to be concerned only with his gaining of mining claims. Therefore, opposition increased.

   Cordillera resistance drew support from progressive organizations throughout the country. Legal assistance was offered by the Free Legal Assistance Group of Senators Jose Diokno and Lorenzo Taňada. Even the New People’s Army (NPA) had offered to help the resistance to the Chico Project. Supporters in Manila pressured the World Bank, which decided to withdraw funding to the project. By the end of 1978, Energy Minister Geronimo Velasco recommended to stop the project. When informed by Velasco that there was an alternative to the Chico Project, President Marcos approved the recommendation of suspension.

Despite withdrawal of NPC workmen in the area, the military remained active in suspicion of the population helping the NPA. To serve as a lesson to the people, the military killed Macli-ing (Macliing) Dulag on April 24, 1980. Soldiers of the Army’s 4th Infantry fired at the houses of Macli-ing and his neighbor, Pedro Dungoc. Macli-ing died instantly, while Dungoc was wounded. It was said Macli-ing’s body was wrapped in a rattan mat with a knife in his mouth. Apparently, he would have fought the soldiers with the knife. “Ama” Macli-ing, a Kalinga chieftain (pangat), was regarded as the main unifier of Cordillera opposition to the Chico Project.

Macli-ing Dulag
Photo courtesy of the
Philippine Daily Inquirer
When Elizalde had given him a thick envelope, Macli-ing was said to have replied:
This envelope can contain only one of two things – a letter or money. If it is a letter, I do not know how to read. And if it its money, I do not have anything to sell. So take your envelope and go.
Cordillera Day

   The opposition did not die with Macli-ing. This is evidenced by the Macli-ing Memorial commemorated annually a year after his death, an event attended by personalities like Senators Diokno and Taňada. In 1985, the date was commemorated for the first time as Cordillera Day. Within the region itself, it is also known as People’s Day or Cordillera Bodong Day.

Cellophil Case

In 1973, President Marcos awarded almost 197,346 hectares (1,973 square kilometers) in Abra as a logging and paper-pulp concession to Cellophil Resources Corporation of Herminio Disini, dubbed as "King of Disiniland". The area formed more than half of the entire Abra province, affecting some 40,000 Tinggians.

Tinggian resistance to Cellophil ensued, with their use of the peace pact (kalon). In the first intertribal conference in 1978, there were 1,256 delegates signing the pact. This was a major factor to the eventual collapse of Cellophil.

Cordillera Politics

In elections held from 1978 to 1986, KBL candidates won in every Cordillera province. Marcos himself won in the region in 1981 and 1986 (a ratio of two to one). Although, in 1984, one independent candidate won the lone Batasang Pambansa seat in Benguet.


Want to continue this series? Read Part 2 of the Minorities during Martial Law series.

See the references by clicking here.


[Disclaimer: While some content may offend or cause disagreement with some readers, it must first be taken to mind that the author does not have access to the entire fountain of sources for this topic. Therefore, whatever analyses and conclusions made here are made as adequate as possible and are only built from the available evidences, sources and theories the author has access. Also, since only few editing, mainly grammatical, was made since this series was first written in 2014, then it is yet to be subjected to change. Any correction is welcome, but copying without permission is being frowned upon, since this blog has copyright. Thank you for reading the Young Filipino Historian.]
Minorities during Martial Law (Cordillera) Minorities during Martial Law (Cordillera) Reviewed by Al Raposas on Tuesday, January 27, 2015 Rating: 5

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