Issue of July 17, 2016

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CAR leaders solidify ranks for regional autonomy bid
by Harley F. Palangchao

SHARED VISION -- The 29th Cordillera Administrative Region foundation day on July 15 centered on the continued quest for regional autonomy to ensure that the Constitutional provision mandating autonomous regions in the Cordillera and Muslim Mindanao will not be stricken out in the pursuit to shift to a federal form of government. Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan led the traditional rites that kicked off the celebrations. With  him are governors Pedro Mayam-o of Ifugao and Crescensio Pacalso of Benguet, Baguio Rep. Mark Go, regional directors Janet Armas of DSWD and Milagros Rimando of NEDA, Gov. Jocel Baac of Kalinga, Acting Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan Jr. of Mountain Province, and other provincial, city, and town officials. -- Harley Palangchao

The long-time quest for an autonomous Cordillera reverberated during the 29th Cordillera Foundation Day on July 15 with top elected leaders in the region expressing their support for autonomy.

The Unity Gong Relay, which aims to solidify elected leaders and constituents towards autonomy, came full circle on July 14 after it toured the six provinces in the Cordillera following the ceremonial kick-off at the Baguio City Hall on July 9.

The Cordillera Foundation Day celebration saw the presence of majority of the governors, namely Crescensio Pacalso of Benguet, Pedro Mayam-o of Ifugao, Jocel Baac of Kalinga, Ma. Jocelyn Bernos of Abra, Bonifacio Lacwasan Jr. of Mountain Province, and their vice governors.

Baguio officials led by Mayor Mauricio Domogan and Rep. Mark Go welcomed the delegates from the provinces, who vowed support to this year’s theme: “CAR@29: Working together for an autonomous and empowered Cordillera.”

The Department of Social Welfare and Development-CAR under Dir. Janet Armas also gained strong support from regional line agencies that led to the success of the unity gong caravan.

Earlier, Domogan said that autonomy advocates, especially those with special functions with the Cordillera Regional Development Council, aim to convert the increasing levels of awareness on autonomy into votes. He said a high level of awareness will ensure that the Organic Act calling for the establishment of an autonomous Cordillera will be approved by Cordillerans should there be a third plebiscite.

Lack of awareness on the merits of autonomy and political bickering led to the rejection of the two Organic Acts during the 1990 and 1998 plebiscites.

The quest for autonomy remains a possibility, according to advocates, even if the Duterte administration is pushing a shift from presidential to federal government.

The shift to a federal form of government will be done through Constitutional Convention, which means delegates from all regions will gather for the amendment of the 1987 Constitution.

The other week, Benguet Rep. Ronald Cosalan said the provision in the 1987 Constitution, which provides for the establishment of autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillera, must be preserved in the course of amending the Constitution to pave the way for a federal form of government.

The solon is referring to Article 10, Sec. 15 of the 1987 Constitution.

Advocates for autonomy led by the RDC have been pushing for the realization of an autonomous region in a bid to accelerate the economic and social growth and development in the northern highlands.

The Constitution also grants the provision as a show of recognition to the unique and pure culture and heritage of the various ethno-linguistic groups in the Cordillera and Muslim Mindanao.

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