Cordillera confident of getting autonomy as BOL moves

Jan 13, 2019

Proponents of the Cordillera autonomy continue to have high hopes that decades of clamor for self-determination would end during President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, especially with the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) now moving.
“There is a need to refile the bills pending in Congress, considering that the 17th Congress is ending soon,” Baguio mayor and Regional Development Council (RDC) chairman Mauricio Domogan said on January 8.
He assured that the region will not stop pushing until it attains its autonomy status.
“We have gone far. We waited for so long and we have the confidence that we can have it during President Duterte’s time,” added Domogan, who pushed for the passage of the BOL.
Advocates also maintained that the Mindanao autonomy shares the same legal basis as the Cordillera autonomy–both embodied in Section 15 of Article 10 of the 1987 Constitution.
The output of the Social Preparation for the Cordillera Autonomous Region (SPCAR) workshop held last December and attended by representatives of different sectors, have agreed to continue working for the passage of the Cordillera Organic Law.
“We have been wanting to have this. It even says so in the Constitution and we will not stop until we attain our autonomy status,” autonomy advocates retired educator Dr. Paulina Sawadan and former Sadanga Mountain Province mayor Gabino Ganggangan said during the SPCAR workshop.
Lawyer Thomas Kiwang, Mountain Province legal officer, said the right connections must first be established to be able to approach the President for him to declare the Cordillera autonomy as a priority legislative agenda.
The SPCAR members’ stand is the same as that of the Regional Development Council (RDC), which also agrees to create a lobby group that will focus on establishing connections in Congress and the Cabinet cluster. While simultaneously improving the draft of House of Representatives Bill No. 5343 authored by all the six Cordillera congressmen.
The proponents of autonomy see Senate Bills (SB) 1678 of Senator Migz Zubiri, SB 1930 of Senator JV Ejercito, and SB 1932 of Senator Bam Aquino as a way to further push their cause.
Earlier, Dr. Orville Ballitoc, assistant secretary for the Senate of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO), said: “Before July sana meron tayong improved version of RA 5343. We have to take advantage of the BOL (we should already have the improved version of RA 5343 before July and we should take advantage of the BOL).”
With the help of champions and supporters of the Cordillera autonomy, he said they hope to arrange a meeting with the President, whom they would request to declare the region’s clamor as one of his priority legislative agenda.
“What happened to BOL is very good and we already have a template so we have to review the draft and come up with a good version of a draft bill that we will present to the President. We should be ready to tell him the good features of the bill because his time is very precious, we have to be prepared,” he said.
Ballitoc also expressed confidence that the Cordillera autonomy will pass during the Duterte administration.
“I believe so because we have the right people, connections and we know the game. It would not be impossible and we have a very supportive President who had pronouncements,” he said.
LIZA AGOOT, PNA/ABN

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