TWICE rejected, will the third try to adopt a regional autonomous government in the cordillera succeed?
Will the present congress succeed in passing a bill creating the same? Is the Duterte presidency agreeable to grant the same?
A few weeks ago on July 15, the 33rd founding anniversary of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) was celebrated. It was a festivity without a gathered crowd despite it being declared a public holiday. Blame this to the dreaded coronavirus that prevents the assembly of people.
Yearly, a multitude of Cordillera tribes: Apayao, Abra, Benguet, Kalinga, Ifugao, Mountain Province, and Baguio (lowland immigrant) residents meet amidst the reverberating ethnic beating sounds of brass gongs. Dressed in their respective native attires, they proudly parade the winding streets in highland communities.
This is pursued by indigenous dances with feet stumping the earth in unison in an outwardly euphoric appearance of announcement and declaration: "This land is mine."
It is a rapturous display by a peaceful people who placed behind them their warrior instinct of headhunting against each other, and lowland brothers. Conceivably, autonomy may be a heavenly mode of getting all Cordillerans collectively under one mind and spirit as a nation.
This years' anniversary was devoid of the long speeches on how the quest for regional autonomy was initiated, the pursuit and roller-coaster expedition to its current limbo status. Probably it was fashioned (in disguise) to put behind and forget contentious issues that rekindle past animosities emanating from denigrating inter-tribal egos.
In the 1990s, Congress passed two laws prescribing the creation of an autonomous region and subjected for approval in a plebiscite. Both were rejected. Similar bills were filed in succeeding Congresses by all representatives from the different provinces and cities in attempts to resurrect the chase for regional autonomy. But all found their way to mothball and perish in archive dust and mites.
Decidedly our tribal men and women are not good and efficient hunters in the field of politics and government. The 33-year hunt proved unsuccessful. The spirits of tribal ancestors may have objections to a unified Cordillera. Or would it be that animal sacrifices offered in the past may have been insufficient to appease them from age-old tribal conflicts?
Today, youth advocates may be wondering if self-governance borne out of indigenous culture and tradition will ever happen in their lifetime. Daisy Lee, a handsome lady from La Trinidad, Benguet, has this to say in Facebook: "it will be a long journey (to achieve) for regional autonomy if Du30 will not certify the autonomy bill as an urgent, priority bill, and as (the movement for) Federalism has gone with the wind."
Yet the hunt must go on. There is a basis to pursue said advocacy.
This years' celebration, however, has brought good news. For the first time, the provincial governor of Benguet has endorsed autonomy as a uniting factor for a faster pace in regional development. Gov. Melchor Diclas has announced this bold move, never before taken by his predecessors, which may influence citizens in Baguio city and other provinces to accept an autonomous approach in regional governance.
It may be recalled that then Gov. Ben Palispis even in his retirement years objected and campaigned against the inclusion of Benguet in the proposed Cordillera region.
His vigilant stance based on Benguet sentiments has been carried on by provincial and town officials and community leaders. The province voted in the negative twice. Since then, succeeding Provincial Boards and the Benguet Mayor's League has time and again passed resolutions indicating the negative sentiments of their constituents on regional autonomy.
Perhaps, a skillful public relations team could be organized to help seek the passage of a bill, jointly filed by Cordillera representatives on December 2, 1919, in both chambers of Congress, and approval by the President. (It cannot be ascertained whether the late Benguet Rep. Nestor Fongwan was a signatory to HB 5687.)
Simultaneously, marketing experts with ample knowledge of highland culture and tradition should be tapped. Their task is to map out strategies to lure positive acceptance of an indigenous form of regional governance. This core group should be able to highlight its benefits and advantages versus the bad and unfavorable qualities.
There is a reason for a remake and a freshen appeal to the sensitivities of the younger generation. This may do a scattershot drive to ensnare the prey as a smart hunter would do.
If and when the day will ever come for another opportunity, caterwauling should not find its way in the information or campaign drives. And discordant noises should not be suppressed even if they offend ears. They cannot be avoided.
Nonetheless, bring to mind the boy who cried wolf twice was correct the third time.
August 07, 2020
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