Groundwork for autonomy bill certification underway

BAGUIO CITY  – The tedious process for the certification of House Bill (HB) 5343 and Senate Bill (SB) 1678 or the bills that seek the establishment of an autonomous region in the Cordillera started to roll in the different offices in the Palace and Congress.

On March 8, 2018, Presidential Adviser on the Peace process Jesus G. Dureza issued a Memorandum to President Rodrigo R. Duterte through Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea requesting the Chief Executive to declare HB 5343 and SB 1678 as a priority legislative agenda of the administration since autonomy is the best option for the Cordillera to pursue sustainable social, cultural and economic development in the management and use of its natural resources based on the consultations conducted and documented by the Cordillera office of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA-CAR).

Assistant Secretary Jennifer Joy C. Ong of the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) referred Dureza’s Memorandum to Secretary Adelino B. Sitoy of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office for the evaluation of the merits of the request considering all aspects of law, possible precedence and the utmost interest of the government and welfare of the people as a whole.

Subsequently, Sitoy referred the matter to Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and Interior and Local government Secretary Eduardo Año, Chairpersons of the Participatory Governance Cluster of the Cabinet, for possible consideration.

At the same time, Sitoy also referred the matter to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel for their information and appropriate action.

In his letter to Secretary Sityo, Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan, who chairs the Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC-CAR) and the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC-CAR), stated that the Cordillera is in support of the request of Presidential Peace Adviser Dureza to make HB 5343 and SB 1678 as a priority bill like what is happening with the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) for Mindanao.

He underscored that in fact, Dureza’s request is the unanimous, collective and individual request of the RDC-CAR and the RPOC-CAR as well as the local government units of the region since the constitutional basis for the BBL is exactly the same constitutional basis for the region’s clamor for regional autonomy.

Secretary Dureza vowed to champion the region’s renewed quest for regional autonomy with the present administration because it is the appropriate time for the region to advance its quest for self-governance considering the enabling environment triggered by the President’s overwhelming support to the planned shift to federal form of government from the present unitary set up.

It can be recalled that during a meeting with Cordillera leaders in the palace on July 18, 2017, President Duterte assured them that he will certify the proposed autonomy bill of the Cordillera as an urgent priority administration measure similar to what will be done with the BBL.

However, Secretary Dureza explained that the President will certify whatever will be the outputs of the House and Senate committees on local government on the contents of the autonomy bill in the coming months. By HENT

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