Unity may ease Palace’s stand on autonomy

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Friday, March 28, 2014

ONLY the united stand of Cordillera leaders and constituents can goad the proposed autonomy bill past Malacañang's indifference, Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan.

"Cordillerans led by its officials have to deliver one message to the national government that we want autonomy. To be united is the only way we can drive home the point and for us to be heard," the mayor said.

The mayor feels Malacañang is not receptive to the proposed Cordillera autonomy and not inclined to grant the regional autonomy because it does not want to devolve some of its key functions and provide funds as the autonomous set-up mandates.


"That's how I see it. The National Government will readily reject our autonomy given the slightest of reasons and may just be looking for an escape goat to do that. So it is important that all the leaders will have one stand because if even only one of us opposes it, then they will have their way," the mayor cautioned.

The mayor however said despite the cold treatment and possible rejection, Cordillerans must fight for the right to autonomy as enshrined in the Constitution and must be carried out in a peaceful way unlike the Mindanao people’s quest for a Bangsamoro region which was characterized by violence and armed struggles.

He said an armed struggle will never be an option for Cordillerans who are known as peace-loving people just to get the national government’s attention.

“Getting into war may appear to be an effective means to get the needed attention from the government but let us make a difference and show them that we can attain our autonomy goal through peaceful means even if it will take us a long time to do it,” the mayor said.

Domogan who headed the Third Autonomy Act Drafting Committee that crafted the content of the act had sought support from President Benigno S. Aquino III to certify as urgent the then House Bill 5595 and Senate Bill 3115 or “An Act Establishing the Cordillera Autonomous Region” to no avail.

The President even dished out criticisms against the intent of the bill on various occasions.

The autonomy bill has been refiled by Representative Nicasio Aliping Jr. and is now being deliberated on in the committee level of the Lower House.

Domogan said Aliping informed him congressmen who participated in the initial deliberations posed no objections to the bill but stressed the need for more consultations in the grassroots.

The Regional Development Council (RDC) resumed the conduct of public consultations on autonomy with the various sectors.

The mayor said they are set to conduct a regional consultation on April 30 at a venue to be announced later.

Domogan said the Autonomy Act was based on the principles laid down in renewing the pursuit for autonomy for the third time which is for the Cordillera region to finally establish a permanent regional identity where it will have freedom to manage its people and natural resources, enjoy more financial benefits from the national government while retaining the existing benefits and powers presently being enjoyed.

Senator Aquilino Pimentel III who filed the senate version of the autonomy bill said it is “in fulfillment of the constitution's mandate to recognize the unique norms, cultural heritage, values and vision of the people of the Cordilleras through the grant of regional autonomy... (which) seeks to promote the welfare and interests of the people living in the Cordillera who share common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures and other relevant characteristics within the framework of the Constitution.” (Aileen Refuerzo)

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 29, 2014.

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