The fight for autonomy is now in Congress


Thirty seven years of waiting is enough. The people of Cordillera and regional leaders have intensified their call for
Congress to pass the proposed House Bill 3267 ‘An Act Establishing the Cordillera Autonomous Region,’ and urged Cordillera congressmen to be more aggressive. And asked President Ferdinand Marcos ,Jr to certify the bill as an urgent , and once signed into law ,would become one of his legacy, giving self determination to almost two million Cordillerans, the future generation. And the indigenous peoples, a number of them paid the ultimate sacrifice.

The call marked the kick off of the Cordillera region 37th anniversary celebration held on July 1 at the refurbished
multi-million Baguio Convention Center. The anniversary celebration with its theme : “Multiculturalism Towards
Regional Autonomy and Development” was infused with a strong message of unity and self-determination,
highlighted the region’s and enduring aspiration for self governance and economic independence. In his message Antonio R. Tabora, Jr., the Presidential Assistant for the Cordillera Administrative Region, emphasized the historical
significance of the event.

And acknowledged the rigorous efforts of provincial leaders who have engaged in extensive consultations and data gathering. “Our leaders have demonstrated remarkable dedication to this cause,” he noted. Their grassroots insights
have been instrumental in shaping a plan that reflects the true aspirations of the Cordillerans. Tabora underscored the need for a third plebiscite, referencing past efforts and the successes of similar regions like BARMM. “Cordillera is a land of diverse cultures, languages, and traditions, from the highlands of Apayao to the proud mountain peaks of Mountain Province,” Tabora remarked, painting a vivid picture of the region’s rich heritage.’

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, for his part, echoed these sentiments, stressing the importance of economic and self-governance. The challenge, according to Magalong, lies in the political arena. “The fight for autonomy is now in Congress. We need our representatives to be aggressive in pushing for our cause,” he asserted. “More than anything, today marks an important moment in our journey towards greater economy and development. We must be firm in our soul for empowerment and self determination,” Magalong declared.

He urged regional leaders and constituents to work together, emphasizing the principles of good governance and community cooperation. “We should already be given attention by the national government, of course by Congress, so that we will be able to really achieve our dream of becoming an autonomous region,” Magalong, pointing to a
manifesto from local politicans and regional development council. The leaders emphasized the need for a foundation of social justice, economic equality, and cultural integrity.

Magalong reflected on his own journey from skepticism to support for autonomy. “I had doubts, I had my reservations, but after five years of being a local chief executive, it’s about time we have to fight for autonomy,” he shared. The day’s events concluded with a call to action for all Cordillerans. “Let us believe in the power of our unity
and the potential of our region,” a leader declared. The commitment to continue gathering data, consulting with
communities, and making informed decisions was reiterated, highlighting the importance of a collaborative approach. Community voices played a significant role in the celebration.

In an interview, a student highlighted the economic benefits of autonomy. “For me, when our region is autonomous,
the funds are not going to the Philippines because the funds are centralized, so we can only use them in our own region, which is Cordillera,” the student explained. Another student emphasized cultural preservation, noting that
autonomy would reduce bureaucratic ties and make regional governance more efficient. The celebration also
included cultural performances, showcasing traditional dances and music that symbolize the region’s vibrant heritage.

One performer explained the importance of cultural practices like Binadang (pagtutulungan in Tagalog), which translates to mutual help and cooperation. This cultural solidarity is seen as a cornerstone of the region’s identity and a driving force for its autonomy movement. Meanwhile, Edna Tabanda, Regional Development Council Co-Chairperson, urged the people in the region to reflect on rich cultural heritage and to engage with open hearts and
minds, share and safe-guard the heritage that defines the Cordillera whether indigenous or non-indigenous.

‘The demands of active participation, solidarity, and continuous engagement of the communities in our journey
towards autonomy is not just political endeavor, rather its a movement deeply rooted in our unity in diversity,’ said
Tabanda. The Regional Development Council Vice Chairperson and NEDA-CAR Regional Director, Susan A.
Sumbeling presented the different activities for the whole month of July in the different provinces of the region. The different activities are to showcase the variety of multicultural aspects in cultural songs, dances, musical instruments, and cultural attires.

This will be to witness the unique cultural performances and solidarity among the provinces. On the other hand, she
said NEDA-CAR is reviewing the House Bill 3267, if there are some gaps to improve to achieve the goal, she also
added that they are distributing IEC materials regarding autonomy into different areas, especially the remote areas in the provinces. The youth also show their support for the pursuit of autonomy in the Cordillera. They pointed out that by being autonomous, the funds can enhance the tourism, agriculture, and economy of the region as well as preserve the rich culture and the ancestral lands of indigenous people. The event closed with the ceremonial beating of the unity Gong that symbolizes the unrelenting pursuit of regional autonomy, followed by the Call of Cordillera Autonomy and the community dance.

Jasmin Alaia Legpit / Ma. Christina C. Pendre /UC-Interns

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