BAGUIO CITY – A Palace official urged concerned stakeholders and autonomy advocates to intensify their downstream and upstream lobbying to ensure the enactment into law of the proposed autonomy law for the Cordillera within the next fifteen months of the 18th Congress to prevent the same from being overtaken by events.
President Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) Assistant Secretary Orville Ballitoc said that the first 15 months of the 18th Congress will surely be devoted to legislation that is why the proposed bill seeking the establishment of the Autonomous Region in the Cordillera (ARC) should already be filed by Cordillera lawmakers so that the ‘ball will start rolling in either chamber of Congress.’
He pointed out that allowing the proposed autonomy bill to drag on after the first and second regular sessions of the 18th Congress will significantly affect the chances of the bill being enacted into law because the same will be overtaken by the jockeying for positions in the May 2022 synchronized national elections.
“We cannot leave the matter alone to our legislators because they have their own priority legislations for their respective provinces. We have to constantly remind them about the need to pass the proposed autonomy law for the Cordillera,” Assistant Secretary Ballitoc.
Ballitoc, who is a native of Ifugao having served as a municipal councillor in Lamut town from 2004-2007, was part of the research team that provided the groundwork for the eventual passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law that paved the way for the establishment and operationalization of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
The place official underscored the need for autonomy advocates to drumbeat the long standing issue on autonomy in both the national and local levels to remind the lawmakers of their obligation to pass the autonomy bill and the President to be reminded of the duty of the national government to fulfil the constitutional provision mandating the establishment of the autonomous regions in the Cordillera and Muslim Mindanao.
According to him, the quest of the Cordillera for autonomy is aligned with the present advocacy of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to shift to federal form of government to ensure the devolution of powers and resources to the regional level that will translate to countryside development.
Assistant Secretary Ballitoc recommended autonomy advocates composed of public and private sector representatives for their unrelenting and uncompromising effort in advocating and lobbying for the filing of the proposed autonomy bill in the 18th Congress so that the establishment of the autonomous region will be realized before the President steps down from power by June 30, 2022.
He advised the autonomy advocates to continue enhancing their linkages with members of the 18th Congress to ensure the immediate passage of the autonomy law and for the grassroots level to understand the real essence of autonomy so that they will favour the ratification of the law once submitted to them during a plebiscite that will be scheduled for the said purpose.
Assistant Secretary Ballitoc served as the main speaker and facilitator during the recently concluded 20day CAR Autonomy Partners and Advocates Assembly and Mid-Year strategy Cum Planning workshop.
By Dexter A. See
Illustration by Don Ray Ramos