Delivering the basics

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By Ramon Dacawi

Benchwarmer

Friday, May 2, 2014


AUTONOMY within autonomy.

This principle is the quintessence of the renewed push to establish an autonomous region for the Cordilleras.

This means that the powers and benefits presently being exercised and enjoyed by the local government units in the Cordillera Administrative Region under the Local Government Code and other existing laws under the administrative set-up shall not be reduced or diminished under an autonomous region.

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This means that each congressional legislative district (presently one each for the six provinces and the city of Baguio) shall maintain their respective representation to the Congress of the Philippines.

This means that, under autonomy, each of these local government units (LGUs) shall continue to receive their Internal Revenue Allotments, together with their share from the national wealth and other taxes and benefits presently du e them under existing laws.

To stress the point, this much is clear: what is due to each LGU under present laws shall not be shared with and by other local government units.

That is the spirit of autonomy. It is autonomy within autonomy.

Specifically, this means that what was, is and will be the share of a certain LGU from national wealth and other taxes from the operation of gold or copper mines and hydro-power plants within the province shall totally and solely accrue to the LGU.

What shall be shared by the LGUs under the autonomous set-up shall be new or additional subsidies and tax incentives and shares from the national government for the autonomous region as specified in the autonomy bill to be drafted.

It must be made clear here that autonomy would legally allow the national government t to release these additional fund subsidies over and above what the LGUIs are receiving under an administrative set-up.

The autonomy bill to be drafted by the Cordillera representatives to the Congress of the Philippines will also provide that the shares of provinces and cities from national taxes shall be paid directly to them. This means that such shares shall no longer be coursed through the national government which, in the past, caused problems for not turning it over to the LGUs.

The previous autonomy draft committee commissioned by the Regional Development Council and headed by Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan had spelled out this and other principles and guidelines, stressing any breach of which would undermine the meaning and substance of self-rule which is, to repeat, autonomy-within-autonomy.

The questions (and fears) as culled from the autonomy information campaign and consultations, remain basically on these – the basics. Their recurrence during consultations is signal for greater emphasis. While the answers are found in the printed autonomy bill and Facts, Questions and Answers reading materials being distributed, they need to be strengthened and repeated in the oral presentations for clarity and assurance. Most Cordillerans would want to hear this from the leaders and advocates rather than read it on the printed page. This much is asked of the advocates of autonomy in the Cordillera.

In the same token, the same measure is asked of those who oppose the concept of autonomy or the organic act. Beyond criticizing the limitations of the measure, they are asked to offer concrete, credible and doable alternatives that would truly address the issues and free the region from the clutches of stagnation and empower it so it could catch up with the other regions in terms of progress and development.

Otherwise, their stance of making the quest for self-rule look oxymoronic – which is farthest from the truth – would, itself, be an exercise in self-contradiction, an act of laborious idleness, of cruel kindness.

(e-mail: mondaxbench@yahoo.com for comments.)

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

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