BAGUIO CITY – A staunch advocate of autonomy in the Cordillera and Mindanao cited the renewed quest for self-determination being spearheaded by the Regional |Development Council (RDC) is leading towards the right direction but prime movers of self-governance must make sure that the devolution of powers and resources must be implemented by the national government.
Lawyer Benedicto R. Bacani of the Institute of Autonomy and Governance (IAG) said Cordillera’s bid for autonomy must be anchored on the proper messaging and collective identity of the people so that the national government will be able to realize that it must already fulfill its commitment enshrined in an aspiration for such contained in a peace agreement signed three decades ago.
“Autonomy in Muslim Mindanao is different from the clamoured autonomy in the Cordillera. We hope that the defects of the autonomy in Mindanao will not be repeated but instead enhanced in the Co0rdillera where it stands to be better realized for the benefit of the present and future generations of Cordillerans,” Bacani stressed.
He admitted that having directly participated in the crafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the scenario opened the opportunity of including even impossible provisions in a political document that turned out to be unconstitutional and now the failure of the same during the present administration.
Bacani underscored that what should be incorporated in the proposed autonomy bill will be the devolution of powers and budget coupled with the willingness of the government to implement the devolved powers and resources for both the regional government and local government units comprising the autonomous region.
According to him, in the ARMM, there was the devolution of powers and resources but some government agencies refused to devolve such powers to them because of questions in the implementation of programs and projects beneficial to the greater majority of the people, especially those in the countryside.
Bacani pointed out need for the autonomy advocates to lobby for enough powers and resources which the regional and local governments could handle to prevent possible complications in the future.
Bacani cited the problem with the Local Government code is that it devolved the powers of agencies to the local government but it failed to devolve the resources making it difficult on the part of the local government to implement the lawful provisions requiring funding support from the government.
In the case of the ARMM, the lawyer ruled that the regional government became an employment agency of rebels who surrendered their arms in exchange for lasting peace in Mindanao but the said objective was not actually realized up to the present.
He added the success of an autonomous region depends on the powers to be devolved, the resources available to back up the devolved powers and the capacity of the regional and local governments to implement the devolved powers and resources coupled with the ability to implement the same.
By Dexter A. See