TABUK CITY, Kalinga, – Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus P. Dureza committed to Cordillera officials and members of the Regional Development Council (RDC) that the region’s renewed quest for autonomy will be part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July this year once various lawmakers file the proposed autonomy bill in the House of Representatives by the first quarter of this year.
Dureza, who attended the RDC-CAR first quarter meeting here and spoke during the 22nd founding anniversary of Kalinga and its 1st Bodong festival, said he will also discuss the matter of certifying the proposed autonomy as an urgent administration measure with the President because it is in line with his current advocacy on federalism.
He urged Cordillerans to go for autonomy first because it is already enshrined in the Constitution as achieving federalism will take sometime because of the sensitive national issues involved in the proposed shift in the form of government from presidential to federal.
The Palace official underscored that the region could co-exist with a federal state because it could become an autonomous region within a federal state which is to the greater advantage of the Cordillera in the future having the authority to govern the affairs of the autonomous government and enjoying optimum share from the resources of the autonomous region.
“We should listen to everyone. ‘We should always be inclusive in our efforts because it is the right time for the region to achieve its desired autonomous status,” Dureza stressed.
He said that while there are oppositions to the region’s renewed quest for autonomy, the voice of the majority is important in the process of converting the region into an autonomous one in the future.
It must be inclusive in order to get a common aspiration to push autonomy forward, he added.
Secretary Dureza advised the RDC to ensure that the Cordillera Autonomy bill should be
passed by Congress soonest because it is the best tactical move to undertake at present. The
review on the constitutionality of the bill could be undertaken later.
He shared that President Duterte is supportive of the downloading of more autonomy to the local government units as manifested by his administration’s advocacy on federalism. Sec.
Dureza encouraged the RDC to go with the President’s roadmap on federalism but not to wait for federalism to be realized.
The push for both the Bangsamoro and Cordillera autonomy should continue because it will become the pilot or the test case for moving towards a federal state, he added.
The show of unity of the Cordillera leaders in pushing for autonomy and the presence of the factions of the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) was observed by the Secretary. He said that such unity is needed.
In the same meeting, the third draft of the Cordillera Autonomy bill was presented by the
Technical Working Group through Atty. Amador Batay-an. The Council approved the filing of
the bill with conditions to enhance the provisions on the devolved powers to the regional government, and the period for the conduct of information campaign prior to a plebiscite, which
were appealed by Baguio City Mayor Domogan.
In response, Kalinga Cong. Jesse Mangaong and Ifugao Cong. Teddy Baguilat consistently reiterated their strong commitment to file the bill once the RDC endorses the same.
Congressman Baguilat disclosed that there are reservations among Cordillera leaders but then again, they agreed that they will file the bill and that issues shall be refined during committee deliberations.
Hearing this, Secretary Dureza lauded the leaders for their support. He asked them to market the bill in Congress to invite co-authors and generate national support. He also stressed the importance of a Communications Plan to guide the RDC on the strategies to be undertaken in
marketing and advocating Cordillera autonomy.