Autonomy bid challenged

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014


A FRUSTRATION.

This is how Judge Francis Buliyat Sr. views the Cordillera Administrative Region's third shot at autonomy.

"We all know that the failed attempts for regional autonomy were proposed by our past and incumbent political leaders and these attempts were both reject by our people. So what is the point of undertaking a third attempt?" Buliyat said speaking to Sun.Star Monday afternoon.

Buliyat participated in the drafting of the legislative proposal of the first attempt on Regional Autonomy as a member of the now defunct Cordillera Regional Consultative Commission and expressed interest on the issue which was born 27 years ago as he pointed out.

"There is no unity among the Cordillera tribe and people due to animosities and suspicion on the perception of 'one lording over others.' Even among our past and present political leaders, some are active advocates but others are passive, if not in fact, oppositors. This is a problem that has to be recognized and addressed," the judge said.

"Another matter that I have observed and evaluated on the first failure of the move is the sincerity of national government. During the first attempt, at its inception, the national government appeared to be actively supporting our desire for autonomy. But this support eventually waned out and in fact non-existent on the referendum of the legislated Autonomy Act for the Cordilleras. Another factor that contributed to the watering down of the CRCC draft was the very spirited opposition of adjoining LGUs, particularly on the inclusion of some Cordillera tribes along the periphery of these LGUs, as well as on the issue of ancestral domain," Buliyat said.

"As for the second attempt having been drafted by rebel priest Conrado Balweg and his followers, its failure to my mind is due to the perception that Balweg does not represent the aspirations of all the Cordillera people," he added.

If Buliyat has his way, a referendum will be held first before laying out the provisions for autonomy.

"'Do we really want to become an autonomous region?' This is the question that has first to be answered," he said.

Moreover, he stressed succeeding attempts on autonomy entails more than the participation of political leaders and government officials.

"Opinions and the support of other sectors of society should be involved, including the religious sector and other professional and civic organizations. If all these are taken into consideration, then perhaps a stronger message could be addressed to the present national leadership and a Cordillera Regional Autonomy provided for in our 1987 Constitution may be realized," he added.

But issues surrounding the bid for autonomy are not lost on Mayor Mauricio Domogan who plays host to today’s regional autonomy summit.

"Our direction is to unite the congressmen to file the bill. And also to continue the information, education campaign on autonomy," he told Sun.Star during an earlier interview.

"Among all the regions in the country, it was only us and Muslim Mindanao which were given the opportunity to be autonomous. Why? Simply because we have been neglected and this was the only legal remedy the national government could find to help speed up our economic recovery," Domogan said.

This as he laid down the purposes of Executive Order 220 "creating a Cordillera Administrative Region, appropriating funds thereof and for other purposes" issued by the late President Corazon Aquino: to give us the opportunity to manage ourselves; to accelerate the socio-economic and infrastructure development of the different units of the region; and to prepare the region for an autonomous status.

According to the city's chief executive, the biggest challenge now is to come up with an autonomy law to achieve these purposes to better the region’s present situation guided by five principles.

"We have to make the region permanent. The possibility for our administrative region to be disintegrated is still there. We must not allow this to happen. A permanent identity will give us more power to manage our natural resources, preserve our culture, customs and traditions, and to administer our ancestral lands and domains," he said.

The four other principles are: no diminution of existing benefits for the LGUs; for nationally paid employees to continue being paid by national government; to ensure government subsidy to be used as a special fund to accelerate the region’s development to catch up with other regions; and even after the period of subsidy, to ensure a fund to guarantee our financial stability and sustainability.

"I believe House Bill 5590 filed during the previous Congress, while it is not perfect, is already a very good starting point, working document for congressmen to work on and then file so it can be debated on by the [concerned] committee," Domogan said.

He stressed provisions to further improve the Autonomy Law may be added later as deemed proper.

"But I assure you that these five guiding principles have already been achieved by this draft," the mayor said.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on April 30, 2014.

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