BAGUIO CITY – Presidential Spokesperson Herminio “Harry. Roque, Jr. underscored President Rodrigo R. Duterte did not leave behind House Bill (HB) 5343 or the bill pending in the House of Representatives that seeks to establish an autonomous region in the Cordillera as one of the priority administration measures as the Chief Executive is supportive of the concept of decentralization of powers to the local governments.
Roque, who was in the city for the opening of the 23rd edition of Panagbenga or the Baguio Flower Festival, said that the President is currently reviewing the proposed autonomy bill before handing down the Palace certification that the pending bill is an urgent administration measure.
While the President is a strong advocate of federalism, the Palace official said the President is willing to consider the plight of the Cordillerans for the establishment of an autonomous region because it has been provided in the provisions of the 1987 Constitution.
He added that he is also arranging a meeting between the President and Benguet Gov. Crescencio C. Pacalso and he is positive one of the topics to be discussed will be the region’s quest for autonomy as mandated in the fundamental law of the land.
The Palace certification for HB 5343 authored by all Cordillera congressmen as an urgent administration measure is also being followed up with the President by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus G. Dureza who vowed to champion Cordillera autonomy with the present administration.
Dureza initiated the first-ever meeting of Cordillera leaders with President Duterte in the Palace last July 18, 2017 where the Chief Executive assured that he will certify that the pending autonomy bill in Congress is an urgent administration measure side by side with the revised version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Secretary Roque explained the President firmly believes in the decentralization of powers by the central government to the local governments to give a chance for less developed regions in the country to be developed at par with well to do regions to ensure balanced economic growth.
He claimed autonomy and federalism have actually the same purpose of shared power between the central government and the federal states that is why there is nothing wrong on the approach to be undertaken without going beyond the enshrined provisions of the Constitution that mandates the establishment of autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillera.
Milagros A. Rimando, regional director of the Cordillera office of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA-CAR) and vice chairperson of the Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC-CAR), welcomed Secretary Roque’s pronouncement and expressed hope that the long-awaited certification from the President will be released the soonest so that Congress can deliberate both the BBL and HB 5343 simultaneously and not be overtaken by the current events happening in the House, especially the issues concerning the planned shift to federal form of government through the amendment of the 1987 Constitution.