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Cordillera lawmakers revive autonomy bid

/ 04:33 PM September 22, 2014

MANILA, Philippines — Cordillera lawmakers revived their bid to grant autonomy in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) by filing a proposed Organic Act under House Bill 4649.

In a press release, the Cordillera solons said autonomy is the most effective way for the region to achieve sustainable development and to enjoy the management and use of its natural resources.

“Cordillera autonomy will bring to the national attention as well the benefits of accepting and promoting cultural diversity through the formulation of multi-cultural policies for indigenous peoples and indigenous cultural communities,” the solons said.

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The bill is jointly authored by Representative Nicasio M. Aliping, Jr. (Lone District, Baguio City), Rep. Manuel S. Agyao (Lone District, Kalinga), Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat, Jr. (Lone District, Ifugao), Rep. Eleanor Bulut-Begtang (Lone District, Apayao), Rep. Maria Jocelyn V. Bernos (Lone District, Abra), Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan (Lone District, Benguet), and Rep. Maximo B. Dalog (Lone District, Mountain Province).

The bill seeks a third bid to craft a law for a Cordilleran autonomy subject to the ratification of the constituents in a plebiscite. The lawmakers filed a similar bill House Bill 5595 under the 15th Congress but it failed to pass.

The solons refiled the bill seeking for its passage under the current 16th Congress.

As of now, the country has ratified a law creating the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which was the result of a peace pact between government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The rogue faction of the MNLF eventually resumed its secessionist movement despite the peace pact.

A recently sealed peace pact with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), meanwhile, seeks to create another Bangsamoro political entity to replace the ARMM. The MILF is a breakaway group of the MNLF.

Two Organic acts were passed in 1990 and 1998 for the creation of an autonomous Cordillera region, but these were not ratified in a plebiscite supposedly due to “people’s lack of awareness and understanding of the autonomy issues, coupled with misinformation drives undertaken by some sectors,” the lawmakers said.

“Pulse surveys conducted thereafter revealed an increasing support to regional autonomy,” they noted.

Section 10 of the 1987 Constitution cites the ARMM and CAR as the territorial and political subdivisions that may enjoy local autonomy.

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A regionally autonomous government will have certain powers, functions, duties and budget from the national government to enable it to craft its own development policies and programs. Regional autonomy would allow the devolution of national government powers to the regional government.

According to Section 4 of the bill, “The Cordillera Autonomous Region is an integral and inseparable territorial and political subdivision of the Philippines.”

“The Cordillerans, as citizens of the Philippines, shall owe allegiance and fidelity to the Republic,” the bill read.

The transitory provisions in the proposed CAR Organic Act contained in HB 4649 are:

“The coverage of the plebiscite shall be the provinces of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mountain Province, the chartered City of Baguio and the component City of Tabuk, Kalinga.”

“Any two or more provinces and/or cities voting favorably for this Organic Act in the plebiscite shall comprise the Cordillera Autonomous Region while those voting unfavorably for this Organic Act in the plebiscite shall revert to its mother region prior to the establishment of the Cordillera Autonomous Region.”

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TAGS: Autonomy, car, Congress, Cordillera Administrative Region, Government, Legislation, Politics
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