Bangsamoro as prism in Autonomy quest (Last Part)

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Friday, May 2, 2014


THE victory of the Bangsamoro law in Congress will be a prism in the success of autonomy in the Cordillera, Benguet Representative Ronald Cosalan believes.

Issues like power sharing, exploitation of natural resources among others which are like the Bangsamoro, are Cordillera prime concerns which are ticklish issues before Congress.

Autonomy Beyond Any Law

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But much of the essence of autonomy is wanting beyond the organic act and any law, says Benguet Ibaloi lawyer Jose Molintas, a UN-appointed Expert on Indigenous Peoples Mechanism.

Cordillerans are still disunited, even on their own common consciousness as a people, could achieve autonomy not in the near future, but could take a hundred years more.

Molintas says past mistakes where autonomy took off from the wrong foot cues that “we are still in the first base.”

Cordillerans, composed of peoples from the six provinces and two cities –Apayao, Kalinga, Ifugao, Mt. Province, Benguet, Abra, Baguio and Tabuk cities, should first arrive at a common consciousness as “a nation”. This alone could take long.

Consciousness in most areas has remained as “own tribal consciousness”. Cordillerans must realize that it is not any new law that makes the region Cordillera.

The way the autonomy in the Cordillera is being pushed, Molintas cites, is uncreative and divisive. Consultations being done by government are not essentially “consulting the people” on their sentiments, “but ramming through our throats to gobble up an autonomous structure”.

Hence, it is undemocratic and defeats empowering indigenous peoples, he adds.

“Mover of autonomy from government should take off not from dividing people like branding those seeking clarifications on the autonomy bid as anti-autonomy while those blindly towing their line as pros, but start from fresh insights while relying on past mistakes of the two Organic Acts rejected during the two plebiscites,” Molintas explains.

Already, a private initiative by a new grouping called Autonomy in the Administrative Cordillera Movement (AMIN-TACO), meaning “all of us” in native tongue “Kankanaey” reliving the autonomy movement.

The fervor for autonomy still lives within our hearts, said Tingguian Melchor Balance of the Maeng tribe in Abra who together with a group of “dreamers” jumpstarted two months ago an “autonomy caravan” going around the region to ignite the interest of Cordillerans to pursue “the long-sought dream” of self-governance.

Balance’s group effort dreams of crafting a grassroots-based Organic Act that comes from the people to be submitted to Congress by the end of this year. “If it is not now, it could not be soon,” Kalinga leader Benedict Ballug, convenor of the AMIN-TACO said.

Autonomy seekers, Molintas however insisted, must first seek unity among Cordillerans.

"It will take a process until people are ready to accept it," he said. (Ace Algere)

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on May 03, 2014.

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