Issue of September 17, 2017
Mt. Province

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Bid for autonomy not urgent bill for 2017
by Harley F. Palangchao

The quest for autonomy in the Cordillera might take sometime during the Duterte administration.

The 20-member of the Legislative-Executive Department Advisory Council (Ledac) chaired by President Rodrigo Duterte during its recent meeting has recommended 14 out of the 20 priority bills as urgent sans autonomy in the Cordillera and the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

President Duterte’s advocacy for a shift to a federal form of government has not been included as well, in the 14 measures recommended by the Ledac executive committee as urgent, to emphasize the necessity of having them pass into law within the year.

Among others, the urgent bills are the unified national identification system act; the end of “endo” or contractualization; use of the coconut levy fund; comprehensive tax reform; national transport act; budget reform act; rightsizing of the national government; amendments to the Anti-Cyber Crime Act; amendments to the Government Procurement Reform Act; and amendments to the Agriculture Tarrification Act of 1996.

Some of the 10 measures in advanced stages of legislation are the National Mental Health Care Delivery System; Occupational Safety and Health Hazards Compliance; the Philippine Qualifications Network; and Social Security Act amendments.

The Free Higher Education Act was signed into law on Aug. 12.

The Ledac was formed under Republic Act 7640 during the term of former president Fidel V. Ramos to serve as a consultative and advisory body to the President, chair of the National Economic and Development Authority board, on certain programs and policies essential to the realization of the goals of the national economy. 

To recall, Cordillera leaders led by the seven members of the House of Representatives met with Duterte in Malacañang in July with high hopes that the President will mention or assure to them that the long-time quest for autonomy in the northern highlands will be a priority. The President did not mention any either during that meeting or in his State of the Nation Address.

While some quarters claimed it is already implied that House Bill 5343 which seeks to establish autonomy in the Cordillera as urgent, one Cordillera legislature disagreed, saying most priority bills are mentioned by the President in the SONA for both chambers of Congress to put their acts together on certain bills.

Earlier, Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Sec. Jesus Dureza, who has been assisting the Cordillera Regional Development Council in the push for autonomy, reminded regional leaders that the most important sector for the advocacy is the public not political leaders and government officials.

Aside from the 1987 Constitution, the promise for autonomy by the national government is embodied in Executive Order 220, which created the Cordillera Administrative Region.

Then president Corazon Aquino issued EO 220 as a prize for the signing of a peace accord forged between the Aquino administration and the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army then led by slain renegade priest Conrado “Ka Ambo” Balweg in Mount Data Hotel in Mountain Province in 1987. However, Cordillerans overwhelmingly rejected the organic acts for autonomy in the Cordillera in plebiscites in 1990 and 1998.

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