(July 19 Update: Reports from Malacanan late July 18 confirm that president Rodrigo Duterte signed the bill as urgent, speeding the process of turning it into a law. Details to follow.)
BAGUIO CITY – Presidential Adviser on the Peace process Jesus Dureza recommended to President Rodrigo R. Duterte the certification of House Bill (HB) 5343 or the bill that seeks to establish an autonomous region in the Cordillera as an urgent administration measure side by side with the proposed bill that seeks to strengthen the Bangsamoro autonomous region.
Dureza, who was the guest of honor and speaker during the Baguio leg of the Cordillera Unity Gong Relay, at the city hall grounds, pointed out the government recognizes the wisdom behind the constitutional mandate for the creation of autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillera that is why the President wants to achieve the creation of the autonomous regions before aggressively pursuing federalism.
“We are just instruments in the enactment of the autonomy law but it will be the Cordillerans that will decide on whether or not to ratify the passed law for the benefit of the present and future generations,” Dureza stressed.
The Palace official underscored that it does not mean that when the autonomous region will be in place, it will already be a magic that will address all the problems of the region, because it will be the people that will make it work for the enhanced development of the Cordillera which was left out in the race for development because of the inequitable distribution of the government’s resources.
He claimed he was convinced by the overwhelming support of the Cordillerans to the renewed quest for autonomy that is why he was able to discuss the matter of certifying the autonomy bill as urgent with the President to go side by side with the proposed bill on the strengthened Bangsamoro autonomous region.
Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan personally handed over to Secretary Dureza a copy of the proposed Cordillera autonomy bill and the various resolutions supporting the enactment of the autonomy law and urging President Duterte to certify the same as an urgent administration measure wherein he will discuss the matter with the Chief Executive in their initial meeting Monday night before the Cordillera leaders will met with the President Tuesday night.
Dureza worked out the meeting of Cordillera leaders with the President so that they will be the ones to inform the Chief Executive of their desire for the certification of the proposed autonomy bill as an urgent administration measure and include the region’s renewed quest for regional autonomy as part of his upcoming State of the Nation Address (SONA).
According to him, he already did his part and the ball now lies with the Cordillera leaders to convince President Duterte to certify HB 5343 as an urgent administration measure side by side with the proposed bill strengthening the Bangsamoro autonomous region right in time for the resumption of the second regular session of Congress.
He urged Cordillerans to understand the benefits of establishing an autonomous region in the Cordillera and for them to actively participate in numerous activities related to self-governance so that they will favour the autonomy law once submitted to them for ratification during a plebiscite that will be called for in the future.
Because of his staunch support for the region’s renewed quest for autonomy, the Regional Development Council (RDC) in the Cordillera adopted Dureza as a son of the Cordillera and was given the name by Mayor Domogan as ‘mensapit’ or peacemaker or savior because of his primary advocacy on peace and unification among the Muslims, communist rebles and other fragmented organizations In the country.
Domogan said the name ‘mensapit’ fits the character of Secretary Dureza because of his aggressive pursuit of peace and unification in the country and his being the champion of the region’s renewed quest for regional autonomy.
The Palace official was given the gong, one of the region’s common musical instruments, the ‘kalasag’ or shield, the ‘tubay’ or spear and the famous ‘wanes’ or G-string as his tokens for his adoption.