BAGUIO CITY – Cordillera leaders are now pinning their hopes to former President and now newly-installed House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) in the immediate passage of House Bill (B) 5343, the bill that seeks to establish the Autonomous Region in the Cordillera (ARC), and the proper attention for various issues relative to the state of development in the region. Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan, who chairs the Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC-CAR) and the regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC-CAR), said Cordillera leaders are trying to get an appointment with the newly installed House Speaker and other House leaders for them to thoroughly discuss with them strategies to be undertaken to ensure the passage of the autonomy law.
He claimed considering almost all Cordillera congressmen voted for the installation of GMA, there is a likely chance for regional issues and concerns to be prioritized, especially the region’s renewed quest for regional autonomy envisioned by autonomy advocates as the one that will move the Cordillera region to full development.
“We want to bring to the attention of House Speaker Arroyo our desire to achieve autonomy and for her to help in facilitating the immediate passage of the pending measure. The election of the former President as the new House Speaker is an advantage for us in the Cordillera because she is familiar with the issues and concerns of the region when she was still the chief executive,” Domogan stressed.
Most members of the House of Representatives voted to unseat former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and elected Arroyo as their new Speaker right before President Rodrigo R. Duterte delivered his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) before the joint session of congress last Monday.
Benguet Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan, a former member of the Liberal Party (LP) who recently joined the Nationalista Party (NP), claimed that it was a party decision of the NP to support Ms. Arroyo for the Speakership when the matter was referred to them that is why he voted in favour of her during the call for them to elect a new Speaker.
Cosalan explained they briefed Ms. Arroyo of the real situation in the region that is why he and his fellow Cordillera lawmakers are optimistic proper attention will be given by the House leadership on important legislations concerning the growth and development of the region, particularly the passage of HB 5343 which has been pending in the House committee on local government for over a year now.
HB 5343 that seeks to establish the autonomous region in the Cordillera was authored by all Cordillera congressmen, namely, Abra Rep. Joseph Sto. Nino Bernos, Apayao Rep. Eleanor Bulut-Begtang, Benguet Rep. Cosalan, Baguio City Rep. Mark Go, Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat, Jr., Kalinga Rep. Allen Jesse Mangaoang and the late Mountain Province Rep. Maximo Dalog, Sr. and the same was referred to the House committee on local government for deliberations.
Of all the Cordillera lawmakers, only Rep. Baguilat abstained during the election of the new House Speaker as he asserted his membership to the House independent block.
Kalinga Rep. and Mountain Province caretaker Mangaoang agreed with Cosalan that there is a better chance for the region’s autonomy law to be passed by the House with the new House leadership so that the quest for self-governance will be realized during the term of the President who presented an enabling atmosphere for the realization of the long overdue clamor of Cordillerans for autonomy.
Mangaoang said they will wait out the tension in the House to subside before he and his fellow Cordillera lawmakers will take the necessary steps in making the appropriate representations with the new house Speaker and the chairman of the house committee on local government to start including HB 5343 in the calendar of business of the House.
Lawmakers agreed with Mayor Domogan that the Cordillera autonomy bill must also be enacted because the more controversial Bangsamoro Basic law which has a similar legal and constitutional basis in Section 15, article 1 of the 1987 Constitution, was rushed.
Framers of the 1987 Constitution opined that the only justification for the national government to infuse more resources to the Cordillera and Muslim Mindanao that were neglected in the past is to grant the said regions autonomous status to allow the indigenous peoples (IPs to govern themselves because of the peculiar situations in the regions.
During her term as President, Ms. Arroyo was instrumental in the rehabilitation and upgrading of major road networks in the region, particularly the Halsema highway from Baguio City o Banaue, Ifugao passing through Benguet and Mountain Province, the Bontoc-Tabuk road, Mountain Province to Ilocos Sur road, Benguet-Nueva Vizcaya road, Acop-Kapangan-Kibungan-Bakun road, Abra-Kalinga road among other major inter-provincial and inter-regional road networks that partially completed the ambitious Cordillera Roads Improvement Project created over two decades ago.
Banner photo from congress.gov.ph