WHICH do we want, autonomy or federalism? When I say “we,” I mean we Cordillerans. There are three stands that have come out clearly these days. The first is autonomy alone, second, federalism, and third, autonomy towards federalism. Among the three, autonomy alone is losing ground, leaving “federalism” and “autonomy toward federalism” as the realistic bones of contention. You cannot talk of autonomy alone without supporting federalism that is a pet project of the administration, your clamor for autonomy will tend to fall on deft ears in return, say many.
“Straight to federalism,” shouts Daisy and company, claiming it is “supported by Balweg,” despite my clear pronouncements that I am for autonomy towards federalism. My stand is my stand but I respect others’ choice. That for me is democracy and freedom. The final choice is what will come out as the majority choice after honest-to-goodness debates/interchange of ideas will have been held and bring out the advantages and disadvantages of each side as a basis of intelligent selection.
Talking about basis of intelligent selection, we had a chance to hear from the very lips of Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan yesterday. To my surprise, contrary to reports reaching us, many of his views were perfectly in consonant with our views on why autonomy towards federalism is the better choice.
The concepts of autonomy and federalism to Cordillera, They should be taken in context. In other words, we should not talk of autonomy or federalism in general but of Cordillera autonomy or Cordillera federal state. This has to be done because Cordillera with its territory and people has strong peculiarities that differentiate it from the rest of the Philippines as is constitutionally recognized by the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
The mayor skillfully enumerated specific reasons, especially as to financing, that can serve as good guides in the making of the organic act or in voting at the plebiscite to approve it, but they are better deferred to be written in another article for discussion in public forums or educational campaigns. Domogan remarked wisely that it is better to wait until we see the draft of the bill on federalism to be filed in Congress in order to see whether the things we want to be there are be able discuss the contents more fully and sensibly.
Another matter that the Mayor elucidated, to our appreciation, was that he was not, as mistakenly bruited about in some circles that he was not in favor of the reactivation of the Cordillera Regional Bodies, the CRA (Cordillera Regional Assembly) and the CEB (Cordillera Executive Board) with its independent Commission CBA (Cordillera Bodong Administration); that they were supplanted by the RDC (Regional Development Council). He said, when questioned, that “How can they [CRA, CEB, CBA] perform when their budget was removed? (Actually they were given the appropriations of P1 a year by the Philippine Congress as initiated by a Cordillera Congressman.)
From his query, it is clear that he was merely troubled by the lack of budget and not against the Cordillera Bodies, for he advised, “Work first for the restoration of budget.” He did not know of course that CRA did not wind up but has continued to operate in voluntary capacity through the initiative of individual CRA and CEB members who could not forget that they had taken the oath (sapata) to do their assigned work “until Cordillera autonomy is attained”. CRSF Inc. is now assisting them no matter what, according to Chairman Ryan Saquing.