Cordillera Autonomy advocacy adjust to new normal

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BAGUIO CITY – After an eventful July celebrating the founding of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), the Regional Development Council (RDC-CAR) continued gathering support for House Bill 5687 establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera. Meetings were held in August among Cordillera autonomy advocates, Congress representatives, and partners in national offices to strategize ways to advance the legislation and prepare for the upcoming 34th anniversary of the Sipat Peace Accords of 1986.

On August 13-14, 2020, advocates gathered in Baguio City and online to update the messaging of the autonomy advocacy to be used for online and limited face-to-face information, education, and communication (IEC) activities. This is the second phase of a three-part strategy to shift the IEC thrust of the Cordillera autonomy advocacy in line with the new normal COVID-19 guidelines on mass gathering and new communication channels.

Later, autonomy advocates also met with Benguet caretaker representative Eric Yap and Ifugao representative Solomon Chungalao. In the meeting with Yap, the caretaker he stated that he recognized the importance of Cordillera autonomy as a development need and a Constitutional mandate. He committed to review the filed bill and consult the Cordillera Congress representatives on how he can help. Yap earlier posted a survey on one of his Facebook pages to gauge his constituents in Benguet on their take on Cordillera autonomy which resulted in an overwhelming 90% voting in favor of an autonomous Cordillera.

In a separate meeting, Chungalao said that legislation for the autonomy bill has been sidetracked because of the pandemic. However, he reiterated that the Northern Luzon bloc of representatives is supportive of the bill and they are willing to sign on as co-authors when the bill passes its second reading. This assurance was earlier committed by the CAR Congress representatives as early as December 2019 during the signing of the Manifesto of Support to Cordillera Autonomy by regional leaders and national partners.

It will be recalled that these Cordillera representatives were advised by House of Representatives committee on local government (CLG) Chairman and Tarlac 3rd District Representative Noel Villanueva to gather resolutions from local governments to express local support for Cordillera autonomy. As of this writing, all Sangguniang Panlalawigan have passed resolutions to this effect with 37 more resolutions coming from the Sangguniang Bayan level. Resolutions were also passed by various civil society organizations representing different sectors of the Cordillera peoples.

Support for Cordillera autonomy is continually increasing and advocates are calling for more national attention and the CLG Chairman emphasized that Cordillera autonomy is an existing promise by the national government to the people of the Cordillera. This promise was agreed upon through the indigenous bodong done in 1986 through the Mt. Data Sipat Peace Accord and is embodied in the 1987 Constitution. Among the growing number of supporters are Senator Bong Go, House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon who gave their messages of support during the 34th Sipat Anniversary commemoration. By Marlo Lubguban

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