BAGUIO CITY – Cordillera lawmaker and members of the Regional Development Council (RDC) in the Cordillera agreed to give the renewed quest for regional autonomy a last chance while adhering to the present administration’s plan to shift from the current presidential form to federal form of government.
In the recently-concluded Cordillera leaders forum held at the House of Representatives, Cordillera congressmen agreed among themselves to refile the revised autonomy bill after the conduct of a meeting to further introduce further improvements on the contents of the bill prior to its being refilled before Congress goes on a break sometime in March to be able to meet the timeline of the RDC-CAR.
Ifugao Rep. Tedodoro Baguilat, Jr. said Cordillera congressmen will meet anytime to discuss among themselves their unified stand to file the revised autonomy bill and for them to forego their biases against the proposed legislative measure and allow their constituents to be the ones to decide whether or not their legislative districts will join the autonomous region during a plebiscite that will be scheduled for the ratification of the autonomy bill that will be passed.
He said there is no definite timeline for the administration’s proposed shift to federal form of government that is why it is still best for the Cordillera to pursue the renewed quest for autonomy which is considered to be a definite move rather than awaiting a proposal for federalism that still remains in the air.
Kalinga Rep. Allen Jesse C. Mangaoang said much had been said by various sectors against the region’s renewed quest but it is still best to give autonomy a last chance while awaiting the developments that will transpire relative to the shift to federal form of government that could happen in three to four years.
Mangaoang claimed it is high time for local officials and concerned government agencies to work double time in informating and educating the people about the advantages of joining the autonomous region instead of the region being torn apart and go for the local governments to go back to their original regions.
For her part, Apayao Rep. Eleanor Bulut-Begtang said autonomy is still one of the available options for the region while federalism remains an alternative although it is also possible to establish an autonomous region within a federal state or the Cordillera could opt for a separate federal state once it will qualify in the rules and regulations that will be crafted for the said purpose.
Begtang, however, suggested to the RDC-CAR for the conduct of more grassroots information and education campaign on autonomy to allow the people to differentiate autonomy from federalism because they are not reportedly confused after the Duterte administration embarked on the shift to federal form of government.
Kalinga Gov. Jocel C. Baac admitted that the autonomy fever in his province had died down and that it might be best for the region to await the development on the shift to federal form but he was convinced that it is also important to give autonomy a last chance with the support of Cordillera congressmen who must file and facilitate the passage of the autonomy bill to meet the prescribed timeline.
Baac claimed the lukewarm attitude of the previous administration on autonomy had derailed the efforts of autonomy advocates to intensify their information and education efforts to convince the people to vote for autonomy and enjoy its benefits once the autonomous region will be established.
Apayao Gov. Elias C. Bulut, Jr. expressed support to autonomy and federalism but there is a need to concentrate information and education campaign activities to the youth who comprise bulk of the region’s voting population considering that the present generation have limited knowledge on autonomy, thus, the need for the RDC-CAR to refocus its information and education campaign efforts to the youth to win their hearts to vote for autonomy once it will be subjected to a plebiscite.
Mountain Province administrator Amador Batay-an, who represented Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan, Jr., and Executive Assistant V Rafael B. Talllocoy, who represented City Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan, expressed the support of the provincial and city governments to the renewed quest for autonomy considering that the legal basis is enshrined in the 1987 Constitution while the region could venture on other potential options once federalism will be in place to make sure the local governments comprising the region will remain as one.
Based on the RDC-Car timeline, the autonomy bill should be enacted into law by the middle of 2018 to allow the conduct of information and education campaign while the plebiscite could be scheduled by the end of 2018 so that the election of regional officials could be simultaneously done with the May 2019 mid-term elections.
Milagros A. Rimando, RDC-Car vice chairperson and regional director of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA-CAR), said the unified stand of the Cordillera lawmaers to support the refilling of the revised autonomy bill is a giant step towards realizing the dreams and aspirations of those who fought for the region to be independent from other regions in the country and to give justice to those who sacrificed their lives for the establishment of a unified region.