(First of Several Parts)
The move for Cordillera Autonomy has been dragging for many years now. There have been several attempts in the past to pass a Bill that will convert the present Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) into an autonomous region as envisioned by the 1987 Constitution. Section 19, Article X of the Constitution says: “The first Congress elected under this Constitution shall, within eighteen months from the time of organization of both Houses, pass the organic acts for the autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras.” Legal experts say that this provision seals the fate of our bid for autonomy. According to them the provision on regional autonomy is already dead because the power to enact the organic acts was lodged on the first congress and the present congress can no longer enact the same.
There is a current proposal in the lower house, House Bill No 5687 which is supposed to be an improved and refined version after several attempts in the past to have it approved. The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) is now in the process of campaigning for it and asked several local government units to pass resolutions endorsing it, which some already did. There are however, some provisions which are vague or difficult to understand to the point of being problematic.
The most contentious of these provisions is Section 4 which states that a Cordilleran under the Autonomous Region “shall apply to all citizens of the Philippines who are residents for at least one (1) year within the ARC”. This might be an inclusive provision but to many, it runs counter to one of the main purposes of the autonomous region which is cultural identity and integrity. I know that this has been hotly debated in the past so I will go no further. But another provision which is perplexing is Section 44 which says in part: “…candidates for Regional Governor, Vice-Governor and members of the Regional Assembly must not be related to the incumbent elected regional officials within the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity.” It can be inferred that the purpose of the provision is to prevent political dynasties but it might not have been studied well. It in fact allows for a situation where the parents can run as governor and vice-governor while the children can run as members of the regional assembly at the same time because it is not prohibited. Who is disqualified is a candidate is someone who has a relative within the fourth degree who is an incumbent regional elected official but not if they all run at the same time!
Another provision which might not be fair is the allocation of the representatives to the regional assembly. Section 45 party states: “Any highly urbanized city in the autonomous region is entitled to four (4) representatives to the Regional Assembly. Each province shall be entitled to four (4) representatives, two (2) per provincial district, and one (1) for the component city.” It might seem fair but the representation will not be proportionate. The difference in the population among the provinces are too great that a province which has a population of one million will have the same number of allocated representatives with another province which has a population of only half million. The representation will not be proportionate which should be the case just like what our 1987 Constitution provides. If this provision will be maintained, there will be “under” and “over” representation in the regional assembly.
The space allocated for this column will not allow the mention of all sections that might need reconsideration but they will be discussed in the next ones.