BAGUIO CITY – The renewed quest for Cordillera autonomy continues to gain support from party-list groups aspiring for seats in the 19th Congress in the upcoming May 9, 2022 synchronized national and local elections.
The latest party-list group that committed its support to autonomy is the IPEACE Epanaw which is listed as No. 171 in the roll of party-list organizations in the official ballot for the upcoming polls.
Former regional director Marlon Bosantog of the Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR) stated that the pursuit for autonomy is also aligned with the pertinent provisions of Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) which focuses on the self-determination of indigenous cultural communities (ICCs) and indigenous peoples (IPs) for them to be empowered to be the partners of the government for growth and development in the countryside, especially in the Cordillera which is characterized by mountainous terrain where the prevailing policies of the central government is not applicable to the said areas.
However, Bosantog, who is the IPEACE Epanaw’s second nominee, pointed out that the clamor for autonomy is not geared towards exclusivity but it is to ensure that the policies, programs, projects and activities implemented by concerned government agencies in the autonomous region are appropriate to the context of the region.
According to him, the filing of the proposed autonomy bill for the Cordillera in the 19th Congress is one of the major priorities of the IPEACE Epanaw as this will also contribute in advancing the welfare of the IPs and ICCs.
The former NCIP-CAR official asserted that the party-list group will aggressively work for Cordillera regional autonomy once it will be given a chance to have the necessary seats in the 19th Congress to help Cordillera lawmakers advance the immediate passage of the long overdue autonomy bill for the region to achieve its desired autonomy status after more than 3 decades of it being enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.
Earlier, the House committees on local government, ways and means and appropriations passed upon House Bills 5687 and 7778 authored by all cordillera congressmen and Benguet caretaker congressman and Anti-Crime and Terrorism through Community Involvement and Support (ACT-CIS) Party-list Rep. Eric Yap, respectively, seeking for the establishment of the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR) had the consolidated bills are now pending with the House committee on rules for the scheduling of plenary debates.
Also pending in the Senate is Senate Bill (SB) 1232 authored by Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri that serves as the counterpart bill of the autonomy bills pending in the lower chamber which is pending with the Senate committee on local government.
Bosantog agreed with the contention of autonomy advocates that the establishment of the autonomous regional government will definitely speed up the development of the region as a whole and contribute in efforts to move people out from the shackles of poverty.
The 1987 Constitution mandated the establishment of autonomous regions in the Cordillera and Muslim Mindanao but it was the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that was established which was further expanded through the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law that created the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) during the term of President Rodrigo Duterte.