Region-wide Autonomy powwow set

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Monday, April 28, 2014

SOME 1,000 sector representatives from the Cordillera, including most if not all of the seven congressional representatives of this upland region, will converge on April 30 at the Baguio City National High School in a renewed effort towards the crafting and filing of a fourth bill that, hopefully, would finally flesh out autonomy for the highlands of northern Luzon.

The day-long summit, coming 27 years after the 1987 Constitution mandated the creation of autonomous regions in the Cordillera and Muslim Mindanao, was set by the congressional representatives, governors, members of the Regional Development Council and other leaders of the region in a meeting March 11, according to regional director Mila Rimando of the National Economic and Development Authority.

Rimando said the summit which opens at 8:00 a.m. will focus in inputs from the governors of the six provinces, mayors Mauricio Domogan of Baguio and Ferdinand Tubban of Tabuk, Kalinga, together with representatives of non-government organizations, the media and the Cordillera Association of Regional Executives based on consultations conducted with their constituents and sectors.


Advocates for self-rule expressed hopes all of the seven congressional representatives would attend to give their responses to the inputs culled from consultations done in the provinces of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Mt. Province and Kalinga.

Since not everybody would have the time to present inputs, Rimando advised sector representatives to submit their papers to the secretariat for submission to the Cordillera representatives to Congress.

Baguio Rep. Nicasio Aliping, who is hosting the powwow with mayor Domogan, explained the Cordillera solons had agreed to craft a new autonomy bill based on the inputs during the grassroots and provincial consultations and on the two previous organic acts.

Following the summit, Aliping said, the Cordillera solons will set up a committee to help them draft the new measure which will also take into account some of the provisions of House Bill 5595, which was drafted by a committee headed by Domogan on commission from the RDC and filed during the previous Congress.

The two previous organic acts were rejected in two plebiscites, partly, as per feedbacks, to a weak information campaign and understanding of autonomy, and in the weakening or “mangling” by Congress of the original draft prepared by the Cordillera Regional Consultative Commission.

“That was the perception, so much so that even some members of the CRCC eventually campaigned against ratification of the organic act which they claimed was watered down by Congress,” Domogan said.

The decision of the Cordillera solons to initiate with the RDC the holding of the summit has boosted hopes for a unified stance towards autonomy for this upland region which, despite the tapping if its rich mineral, water and other natural resources for national development, still lags behind the other regions of the country.

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

The provision for autonomy for the Cordillera and Muslim Mindanao in the 1987 constitution was designed to accelerate the economic and social growth and development of the two regions whose provinces belonged to the country’s poorest.

Muslim Mindanao eventually ratified its organic act fleshing out an autonomous region. Recently, it obtained a better deal through negotiations with a government panel headed by now Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen of Baguio for the establishment of a Bangsamoro autonomous region to replace the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao which President Benigno Aquino described as a "failed experiment."

In the case of the Cordillera, Domogan expressed the feeling that Malacanang is not receptive to the push for Cordillera self-rule as it would mean devolution of some of its key powers and functions, aside from the additional funds needed to set in place an autonomous region here.

Domogan maintained the quest for Cordillera autonomy must be done peacefully, unlike the forging of a Bangsamoro region which was marked by violence and war.

“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.

That was also the view of the late rebel priest, Conrado Balweg, leader of the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army who signed the truce with then President Aquino in Mt. Data in 1987 to start fleshing out autonomy for the Cordillera.

To speed up realization of the constitutional mandate, then President Aquino issued Executive Order 220 creating a temporary administrative region complete with line agencies mandated to prepare the region for an autonomous set-up 27 years ago. (Ramon Dacawi)

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

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