BAGUIO CITY – Members of the Consultative Committee (ConCom) created by President Rodrigo R. Duterte to review the possible amendments of the 1987 Constitution decided to retain the provisions mandating the establishment of autonomous regions in the Cordillera and Muslim Mindanao because of the need for the government to address the historical injustices committed by the previous leaders to the inhabitants of the two neglected regions in the country in the past.
Dr. Virgilio C. Bautista, one of two Cordillerans in the 22-member ConCom, explained that under one of the sections of the proposed federal charter, it provides that the Federated Region of the Cordillera shall be composed of the provinces of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mountain Province, the chartered City of Baguio and the component City of Tabuk without prejudice of being reduced or expanded which is similar to Section 15, Article 10 of the present Charter.
However, he explained that in the present set up, an enabling autonomy law must have to be passed by Congress and should be ratified by the Cordillerans in a plebiscite that will be scheduled for the purpose but under the proposed federal charter, once the new Constitution will be ratified by the Filipino people in a referendum, the federal government will already implement the existence of the federated regions, including the Cordillera and the Bangsamoro regions, because the matters had already been constitutionalized.
Prof. Eddie Ali, one of the ConCom members from Tawi-Tawi, added that if the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and the autonomy law of the Cordillera will be enacted prior to the adoption of the federal charter, the autonomy laws of both regions will serve as appendices to the federal Constitution without prejudice of the two regions seeking for additional powers from the federal government through laws that will be legislated by their respective regional assemblies.
More importantly, Ali disclosed that the two regions, Bangsamoro and the Cordillera, will be entitled to two senators each because the federated charter adopted the bicameral set up of the legislative branch but the senators should be elected by regions to give equal representation for the regions in the policy-making body of the State unlike in the present situation where senators come from vote-rich provinces in the country.
For his part, Bautista claimed that all the 17 regions will have the election of their regional governors and vice governors similar to the setup of the federal government wherein a vote for the president will be a vote for the vice president.
In the case of the Corrdillera, he claimed that the regional vice governor and the vice governor will be elected at large similar to what had been put in place in the draft autonomy laws now pending in the House and Senate.
He pointed out, together with Kalinga veteran politician Lawrence Wacnang, they had been fighting for the inclusion of the Cordillera and Bangsamoro provisions in the draft charter and considering that the decision of the ConCom members is to divide the country into federated regions based on the existing regions, the two special regions will not be swallowed by other developed and larger regions thereby ensuring equitable share in the country’s resources aside from the benefits that the regions will derive from whatever available funds subject to disposition by the federal government once it will be in place. By Dexter A. See