Cordillera autonomy proponents bewail snub of issue in SONA
BAGUIO CITY—Cordillera leaders were hopeful that President Aquino would refer to their bid for autonomy in his State of the Nation Address (SONA), and like many other groups seeking his attention, they left their respective offices disappointed.
Mr. Aquino instead addressed the problems of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which he had targeted for reforms after describing it as a region “dominated by horse-trading and transactional politics.”
“The Cordillera’s biggest challenge since we started this campaign was to draw the support of the President. Apparently, it is still a challenge,” said Juan Ngalob, head of the secretariat serving the Regional Development Council (RDC).
Mr. Aquino’s mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, created the Cordillera Administrative Region 24 years ago.
The RDC and the region’s officials crafted a third draft measure that would convert the administrative region into the Cordillera Autonomous Region as prescribed by the 1987 Constitution and by a peace agreement that Mrs. Aquino made with rebel priest Conrado Balweg.
Two previous laws creating the autonomous region failed to win ratification in the 1990 and 1998 plebiscites.
Mr. Aquino has not yet acknowledged the third autonomy campaign.
In a recent visit here, Ronald Llamas, presidential adviser for political affairs, said Mr. Aquino wanted Cordillera officials to “convince more people to share the aspiration [for autonomy] by bringing the issue to the grassroots.”
Llamas also asked RDC officials not to rush the autonomy campaign.
On July 4, Mr. Aquino led the ceremonial termination of talks with Balweg’s Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA).
Kalinga Gov. Jocel Baac, RDC chair, said: “We support the programs of the President [that are meant to] uplift the life and well-being of our people and his desire for change and reform in government. But the recognition of the Cordillerans as a distinct political group is a legacy of his mother, President Cory. Would he see this through?”
The administrative region was established as an interim region by Executive Order No. 220, which was issued by Mrs. Aquino. But after 24 years of existence, its leaders have started to worry about its existence.
The Supreme Court had ruled on Jan. 29, 1990, that EO 220 was a valid law. But the court also said the administrative region “may be considered more than anything else as a regional coordinating agency.” Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon
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