Aquino told to give Cordillera autonomy


BAGUIO CITY  – The Cordillera Bodong Administration – Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CBA-CPLA) will make a last ditch effort to convince President Bengno Simeon C. Aquino III to fulfill her mother’s dream by supporting the renewed quest of the Cordillera for autonomy before his term ends on June 30, 2016.

Engr. Andres Ngao-i, CBA-CPLA president, said it is unfortunate that the President has a lukewarm attitude towards the realization of Cordillera autonomy when in fact, it was her mother, former President Corazon C. Aquino, who gave birth for the initial establishment of the Cordillera region by issuing Executive Order (EO) No. 220 that created the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) which is a special administrative region preparatory for autonomy.

Ngao-i said the CBA-CPLA will be sending a letter to the President reminding him of the existence of the peace agreement entered between the Philippine government then represented by his mother and the CPLA represented by Fr. Conrado Balweg where one of the conditions was for the establishment and realization of the autonomous region.

“We simply would like to remind the President of the existence of the peace agreement and for him not to push the limits the patience of the Cordillerans because it will always have its end,” Ngao-i stressed.

He pointed out the third attempt of the Cordillera for the establishment of an autonomous region falls within the bounds of the law but the group that signed the agreement with former President Cory is wondering why her son President Noynoy Aquino seems to prioritize the passage of an unconstitutional legislative measure in the form of the Bangsamoro Basic Law over and above legitimate plight for regional autonomy.

The CBA0CPLA official said Cordillerans now want the President to certify as an urgent administration measure House Bill (HB) 4649 or the bill that seeks to establish the Cordillera Autonomous Region so that the House committee on local governments could start deliberating and passing the needed legislation for the realization of self-governance in the Cordillera in the future and for the region to remain as a temporary region that could be dissolved anytime the Chief Executive desires to do so.

According to him, the mere fact that the seven Cordillera congressmen, Abra Rep. Maria Jocelyn Bernos, Apayao Rep. Eleanor Bulut-Begtang, Baguio City Rep. Nicasio Aliping, Jr., Benguet Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan, Ifugao Rep. Teodoro B. Baguilat, Jr., Kalinga Rep. Manuel S. Agyao and Mountain Province Rep. Maximo Dalog, Sr., signed the autonomy bill is a clear indication that Cordillerans are now united to push for the realization of the creation of the desired autonomous region for the benefit of the present and future generations of Cordillerans.

Ngao-i cited the only chance for the Cordillera to achieve faster economic growth and development is through the establishment of the autonomous region because the proposed autonomous regional government will be able to craft programs and policies that are suitable to the unique state of the region.

Ngao-i emphasized in the present set up of government, the Cordillera will continue to receive the least allocation of resources considering that the criteria on land area and population will be applicable which would be disadvantageous to the local governments comprising the region due to their mountainous terrain and lesser population.

Autonomy advocates believes the eventual establishment of the Cordillera Autonomous Region will help move the people out from the shackles of poverty and would guarantee faster growth and development, especially the far flung villages in the region.

The creation of the CAR stemmed from the signing of the ‘sipat’ or peace agreement between the government represented by former President Cory Aquino and the CPLA led by Fr. Balweg on September 13, 1986.

While it is true that there were two attempts for the establishment of an autonomous region in the Cordillera, Ngao-i claimed there were justifiable reasons on why the two Organic Acts were overwhelmingly rejected by the Cordillerans.

In the first attempt for regional autonomy by a plebiscite for the ratification of Republic Act (RA) 6766 on 30 January 1990, he disclosed the autonomy bill that was presented to the Cordillerans for ratification was watered down by Congress that is why even those who were instrumental in the crafting of the first Organic Act campaigned against the ratification of the first autonomy bill because their desired contents were virtually changed.

In the case of the second Organic Act or RA 8438 which was subjected to ratification on 07 March 1998, Ngao-i revealed the proposed autonomy law was again rejected because there was no time for the conduct of the required information and education campaign considering that it was only signed into law on 31 December 1997 and that there was only two months for the information campaign.

Only the province of Ifugao ratified the first Organic Act while Apayao was the only province that ratified the second autonomy law.

By Dexter A. See