The renewed quest for Cordillera autonomy taking a back seat to pave the way for the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) should be positively interpreted as future gain for the autonomous region to be established because it will serve as an improvement of the BBL once the same will be passed and upheld by the Supreme Court (SC) Thanks to Senator Aquilino Pimentel III for opening the minds of autonomy advocates that the refusal of Congress and the Aquino administration to prioritize the passage of the third Organic Act is abandoning the constitutional provision mandating the establishment of an autonomous region in the Cordillera. Most of the time taking a back seat often translate to good results because whatever deficiencies in the initial attempts will serve as a basis to correct the same in the renewed pursuit for regional autonomy.
Clearly, Senator Pimentel, a staunch advocate for autonomy and federalism, cited the need for autonomy advocates to continue working on the ground and cascade to the grassroots level the real essence and benefits of self-governance. His commitment to champion the Cordillera autonomy law in the Senate in the 17th Congress considering the lack of time this present Congress is a clear indication of his sincerity for the region to be able to achieve autonomous status and give justice to the armed struggle that initially resulted to the creation of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), a special administrative region which is temporary in nature.
Cordillerans deserve to be accorded the things which are enshrined in the fundamental law of the land but there should be a consolidated effort among stakeholders to cascade to the grassroots the real essence of autonomy and it should now serve as a challenge for primemovers to work double time in order to easily achieve it once the autonomy law will be submitted to the people for ratification. Let us join hands in keeping the fire burning so that the present and future generations of Cordillerans will be able to internalize what their ancestors had been fighting for during the armed struggle. Senator Pimentel was right in his statement that there should no longer be blaming on what were the lapses in the past. Autonomy advocates should start winning the hearts of the people by being to effectively and efficiently address their fears. Cordillerans are known to be wise and intelligent voters that is why threatening them of going to other regions might create more problems than solutions in the future. Let us try to patiently make our people understand the true essence and benefits of autonomy and mobilize them to join the bandwagon so that when the law will be submitted for ratification, there will be no much problem and the region will still remain as one.
The partial unity shown by Cordillera leaders during the recent celebration of the CAR’s 28th founding anniversary in Luna, Apayao was an indication that the Cordillera is slowly moving to the right direction. Spending long hours of travel just to attend such important occasion sends the clear message to the people of the importance of our continuing advocacy for self-governance. It will remain as an advocacy until we are able to craft the autonomy tailor-fit for the Cordillera.
Senator Pimentel’s commitment to champion the Cordillera autonomy law should now serve as a wake up call for concerned government agencies and local governments to start working on their massive and aggressive information and education campaign in order to be able to win the hearts of the people by then. The existing information and education campaign should be revisited in order to incorporate the latest developments in the BBL. Some lawmakers were somewhat right in their previous pronouncements that the BBL will serve as a template for the Cordillera autonomy law but be that as it may, it is high time for autonomy advocates to think out of the box and innovate their existing IEC efforts to conform with the trend of the times.
We support the clamor for regional autonomy because of the numerous benefits that self-governance will bring to our region. What is important today is for autonomy advocates to learn from the lessons of the BBL, innovate on it and use it as the good points for the region’ autonomy law once the new administration will takeover. Let us not forget to involve everybody in the IEC efforts because there are some people who seem to be critical about the quest for autonomy but actually, they are supportive of it and they just want to test the credibility of those advocating for it. Let us allow the autonomy issue to snowball up to the national level so that our future leaders will be able to realize that we mean business in our renewed quest for self-governance which our ancestors had been struggling for through their armed struggle and now through peaceful and democratic means.