On August 10, around 200 Cordillera leaders and advocates met with Senators JV Ejercito and Koko Pimentel in Manila to show their unity in achieving Cordillera autonomy. Various Malacañang officials like OPAPP Sec. Jesus Dureza, PLLO Sec. Adelino Sitoy, and Northern Luzon Sec. Raul Lambino, among others, also showed their support for Cordillera autonomy. Sitoy revealed that Senators JV Ejercito and Bam Aquino filed their counterpart bills in the Senate, SB 1923 and SB 1930, respectively, to go along with SB 1678 filed by Senator Zubiri. Senator Pimentel also expressed his desire to file a similar bill. The event was co-organized by RDC, NEDA, OPAPP, PLLO and IAG.
Later, the House of Representatives Committee on Local Government held the first committee hearing on the proposed organic act on August 14 attended by members of the RDC led by Chairman and Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan and NEDA Regional Director Milagros Rimando who presented to the members of the committee manifestos and statements of support for autonomy gathered since the beginning of the 17th Congress. They were joined by CAR representatives Baguilat, Cosalan, Bulut-Begtang, Go, and Mangaoang. Mindanao repreentatives Manuel Zubiri and Abdullah Dimaporo expressed support for the advocacy and committed to hasten the attainment of autonomy for the Cordillera.
More recently, Cordillera leaders through the RDC and NEDA, once again partnered with OPAPP and PLLO to meet with national personalities in the Cabinet and Congress during the Am-among Di Cordillera, a national peace forum. The event coincided with the 32nd anniversary of the historic Mount Data Sipat or peace pact between the national government and the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA). Several witnesses to the 1986 event were present during the Am-among to restate their clamor for autonomy. One witness in particular who served as the guest-of-honor during the Am-among was former President Fidel V. Ramos.
Earlier this year, the Cordillera autonomy advocacy intensified activities to gain support on the national level. January saw the conduct of the Congressional Forum on Cordillera Autonomy and Federalism where Sen. Miguel Zubiri gave his word to file the senate version of the proposed Organic Act. Later, members of Congress from ARMM and the Cordillera met to plan ways to fast-track the passage of the proposed Cordillera organic act into law.
It would only snowball from there as the meeting led to the regional public consultations on House Bill 5343 and the Cordillera leader’s forum with senators. A meeting of the Consultative Committee to Review the 1987 Constitution with the RDC Chairman Mayor Mauricio Domogan and the subsequent regional consultation on federalism, meetings with PLLO in advancing the Cordillera autonomy legislation, and events with OPAPP including the aforementioned Am-among di Cordillera all helped in increasing the advocacy in 2018.
The RDC-CAR, through the NEDA, adopted Cordillera autonomy as the overarching theme of development in the region. Since 2006, RDC and NEDA have pursued Cordillera autonomy as the best means for attaining just and lasting peace and sustainable development in the region.
By Marlo T. Lubguban