Token Exchange eyed as first step to end Cordillera tribal war

INITIAL TALKS. Kalinga Governor James Edduba (2nd from right, seated) and Mountain Province Governor Bonifacio Lacwasan Jr. (2nd from left, seated), along with the police and some elders in both provinces, meet for the first time in Sagada, Mountain Province on July 1, 2022 for a short exploratory talk on how to end the conflict between the Betwagan tribe of Sadanga, Mountain Province, and the Butbut tribe of Kalinga. Officials of both provinces agree that the traditional way of settling disputes might help end the tribal war that began in the 1990s. (PNA photo by Liza T. Agoot)

BAGUIO CITY – Through the initial act of “sipat” (exchange of tokens) between elders, the local governments here are hopeful the conflict between the Betwagan tribe of Sadanga, Mountain Province, and the Butbut tribe of Kalinga will soon come to an end.

“In any endeavor towards peace, let us always be hopeful that the efforts will lead to a good result,” Kalinga Governor James Edduba said in a recent interview after initial talks with his counterpart, Bonifacio Lacwsan Jr. of Mountain Province.

Edduba and Lacwsan met on the sidelines of the opening of the earlier celebration of the Cordillera month to support the peace process between the tribes and expressed interest in helping end the conflict.

The Betwagan tribe of Sadanga, Mountain Province, and the Butbut tribe of Kalinga share a common boundary. The officials said they would initiate the peace process but it would still be up to the tribes’ decision.

Both governors, however, expressed confidence the tribal war that began in the early 1990s would be settled with both parties being guided to realize the value of peace.

“We are hopeful the tribal war that sows terror and disrupts the normal flow of life of the community people will be settled starting with an exchange of peace tokens,” Edduba said.

It will be recalled that the national government, led by former President Corazon Aquino, and the local armed Cordillera People’s Liberation Army of former priest Conrado “Ka Ambo” Balweg used the indigenous way of settling disputes, starting with the exchange of peace tokens.

Edduba said there are recommendations that the parties “follow the tradition and have a ‘sipat’ so that there will be something to start with. If we don’t help them see that it is more beautiful to see peace and order, they might not see it anymore”

The Governor noted that “every time there is an exchange of gunfire, children and women carrying babies run to hide, which presents a very disturbing sight.”