MANY people think that President Noynoy Aquino will support current efforts to push for regional autonomy in the Cordillera. The regional development council had for the past two years worked with different sectors to feel the pulse of the Cordillerans on the regional autonomy. The RDC conducted among others a survey, fora and discusssions, and the latest of which is an intercollegiate debate among the universities and colleges. I did not watch the debate. Accordingly curricula on regional autonomy is an interesting proposition. So regional autonomy can be taught?
Regional autonomy is more than an economic issue so say from those who worked on regional autonomy and the draft-organic acts which were rejected. Regional autonomy is much a socio-political issue. The Cordilleras has more than a hundred sub-tribes. And this does not include those from lowlands - majority of which are the Ilocanos. Now we have the Muslims who according to observers are by themselves a community in Baguio specially. The Muslims are a voting block in Baguio City which has the highest number of voters in the Cordillera.
Twenty years ago during the plebiscites held for the ratification of the draft-organic acts a silent but very powerful issue was who will be (first) regional governor of the Autonomous regional governor in case an organic act is ratified. This question was a political. It is about power in the envisioned autonomous region in the Cordilleras. At those times of the campaign for the draft-organic acts, politics was at worked in the minds of the ordinary Cordillerans. From the Bontok "amfutngan (drunkard)" to the social drinker, autonomy was "into ta itonomy (give us and we'll roast it as if it were pulutan). People were not naïve.
I worked as a technical staff of the first Cordillera Regional Consultative Commission. We campaigned for the ratification of the first draft organic act. My blood pressure to high heavens hearing such jokes from my kakailians. Discussions on regional autonomy was intense and many sectors were involved, non-government organizations specially. A few of them I encountered and got involved with/engaged are the Movement for Genuine Regional Autonomy and Movement for Autonomy and Peace.
Consultations and informal discussions were rich in texture and quality. Local papers joined the in the fray. Columns, news, write ups on the merits and demerits of regional autonomy written and expressed in the organic acts filled -up the local papers. Unlike today, there a few local papers but the write-ups on and discussions on regional autonomy were enough to fill the brain and the opinions flowed smoothly. Radio announcers did not spare themselves. Their comments filled the air. People like the commissioners and politicians who crafted the organic act were not spared from personal innuendos. The church did not spare itself and so with the academe. Sermons and academic papers were written read from the pulpits to academic fora. Such was how intense the debate were on regional autonomy twenty years ago.
Nowadays, regional autonomy remains the vision for the Cordillera. The RDC is on the lead to "revive" interest on regional autonomy. Twenty years being an administrative region, the CAR needs to rethink on regional autonomy. Those who are in the lead know for sure that a lot of changes happened that can influence the positions of the different sectors, leaders, thinkers and specially the young voters.
Are the strategies to revive interest on regional autonomy for the Cordillera able to revive the intensity and richness of the discussions and debates on regional autonomy as it was twenty years ago? This is a tall order. Are the people who worked for regional autonomy for the Cordilleras being consulted or is there need to do it? Peace in the Cordillera was an inspiration for regional autonomy. No matter what happened after the Mount Data Peace Pact between the Cory Government and the group of the late Balweg, peace remains an aspiration. A dividend of peace which is social rather than political is economic development which includes the control of our natural e.g. minerals and water and fiscal resources. Control of these remains a major selling point of those working to revive regional autonomy in the Cordillera.
Peace is an element of co-existence. Peace brings about is unity in diversity which is a call to diminish parochialism. Parochialism triggers distrust.
Distrust triggers the question who will be the first regional governor of an autonomous region in the Cordillera? The question still lingers after twenty years.