Quest for autonomy gets Senate backing

BAGUIO CITY – The third attempt of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) for autonomy got a big boost from a member of the Senate bolstering the chances of the enactment of the proposed autonomy law once certified by President Rodrigo R. Duterte as a priority administration measure, Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito said here recently.

The lawmaker underscored that the government recognizes the distinct culture and heritage of the Cordillera which must be preserved and protected by granting the region with the required autonomy status so that the indigenous peoples (IPs) will have the chance to govern themselves and work for the sustained efforts to pass on the rich culture and heritage to the present and future generations.

“The Constitution has explicitly provided for the establishment of autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillera that is why the government is mandated to grant the said status through the enactment of the enabling law that is acceptable to the people of the region. We support the region’s renewed quest for autonomy because it is important for the region to catch up with the pace of development in other regions of the country through its applicable programs and projects,” Senator Ejercito stressed.

House Bill (HB) 5343, which seeks to create the Autonomous Region in the Cordillera authored by all Cordillera congressmen, is now pending deliberations with the House Committee on Local Government while its counterpart bill in the Senate has yet to be filed in the upper chamber.

Earlier, President Duterte committed to Cordillera officials during their first-ever meeting in Malacanang last July 18, 2017 that he will certify the proposed autonomy bill as an urgent administration legislative measure side by side with the Bangsamoro Basic Law which is still being finalized by the technical working group (TWG) created by the Office of the President to synchronize all pending proposals for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

Senator Ejercito pointed out there are various national laws that are not applicable to the prevailing condition in the region that is why there is a need for the putting in place of the necessary policies that are suitable to the situation in the region considering the unique situation.

According to him, it is best for Cordillerans to include in the proposed autonomy bill whatever policies that should be put in place so that lawmakers will not be hard up in ascertaining what the Cordillerans want in the final version of the autonomy law that will be crafted.

He called on Cordillerans to take advantage of the support being provided by President Duterte to the region’s renewed quest for autonomy so that the establishment of the autonomous region will be realized during his term vis-à-vis the plan of the administration to change the present presidential form of government to federal which could take some time. It will be best for the Cordillera to achieve autonomous status considering there will be no legal impediment for the existence of an autonomous region within a federal state.

Ejercito agreed to the contention of autonomy advocates that autonomy will help spur robust growth in the region considering that the regional government will have greater control of its resources with lesser restraint from outside forces like the government. /By Dexter A. See


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