By Ben Rosario
Twice rejected by the people of the Cordilleras, the proposed creation of the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera was revived anew in the House of Representatives. But this time, its proponents are confident that Cordillerans will finally support their bid for autonomy.
Baguio City Rep. Mark Go, one of the authors of House Bill 5687, said a massive information drive will be conducted as soon as the measure passes Congress in order to make people aware of the significance of creating the ARC.
Currently pending before the House Committee on Local Government. HB 5687 seeks to provide the legislative requisite that would comply with the provision of the 1987 Constitution for the creation of two autonomous regions in the country.
The first constitutional mandate has been complied with during the 17th Congress, when the Bangsamoro Organic Law was enacted and ratified by the people of the autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao.
The ARC’s creation had been enacted twice, in 1990 and in 1998, but was repudiated on both occasions in the subsequent plebiscites conducted in the region.
“One of the reasons we are strongly pushing for this is the Constitution. Otherwise, we may not have a stronger argument in pursuing its creation,” said Go.
“This time, we will have massive information campaign so that when we go into the actual plebsicite, it will be approved,” he added.
Go said authors of the bill are confident that the bill will be approved early in Congress to avoid delay that caused non-passage experienced during the 17th Congress.
“In recent years, the movement for autonomy finds fortitude in the commitment of the Duterte administration to support this constitutionalmandat.es
Aside from Go, other authors of HB 5687 are Reps. Joseph Bernos (PDP-Laban, Abara): Elias Bulut Jr. (NPC, Apayao); , Solomon Chungalao (PDP-Laban, Ifugao); Maximo Dalog, Jr.,(NP, Mountain Province) Nestor Fongwan (PDP-Laban, Benguet) and Allen Jesse Mangaoang (PDP-Laban, Kalinga) .
Go said the new bill contains nearly the same provisions as the previous proposals that were approved by Congress.
Unlike its predecessors, the new bill seeks to strengthen the party-system by providing for the election of governor and vice governor who belong to the same political party.
The authors stressed that despite the constitutional support, the bid for autonomy in the Cordilleras “remains underdeveloped.”
“It is high time that we make good on this Constitutional mandate, and allow the Cordillerans to determine their p;olitical status and to freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development,” they said.
The bill stresses that despite the autonomy,t he ARC will remain “an integral and inseparable part of the national territory of the Philippines.”
However, under the proposal, only city and provinces that vote favorably for the ratification of the measure during a plebiscite to be conducted on the proposed territorial area: Abra, Apayao, Ifugao, Benguet, Kalinga, Mountain Province and Baguio City.
Citizens of the proposed region shall be called Cordilleran.
The ARC shall headed by a regional governor, a regional vice governor and members of the regional assembly which will be headed by a speaker.
Defense of the region will be the responsibility of the national government while implementaiton of peace keeping programs will be closely coordinated by the regional government with the national government.