May 18, 2024

It was reported that Congress passed on third and final reading House Bill 5687, or “An Act Establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC)”.
The region consists of the provinces of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga (including Tabuk City), Mountain Province, and the City of Baguio.
Let it be remembered that Baguio is the only chartered city in the Cordillera and for which reason, although it is within the territorial jurisdiction of Benguet, is not within Benguet’s political jurisdiction.
By its charter, Baguio City has its own political jurisdiction.
Tabuk City, meanwhile, which is a component, remains under the political jurisdiction of Kalinga.
Once signed into law by the President, or if it lapses into law by inaction of the President, a plebiscite shall be held not earlier than three months but not later than six months after the Act shall take effect.
Only the provinces and cities voting favourably in such plebiscite shall be included in the ARC.
Let us recall that the 1990 and the 1998 organic acts that sought to create an autonomous region in the highlands each underwent a ple-biscite and, in both instances, was resoundingly rejected by the people in the Cordillera. Will the umpire call a “strike three” or will there be a home run, this time?
To assure a successful information campaign on the Organic Act, about P20 and P70 million for such purposes were allotted.
So, should President Rodrigo Duterte sign the bill before he leaves office, expect the people in the Cordillera to be back into the streets for another political exercise – a plebiscite to ratify the Organic Act, which may happen bet-ween September and December of this year.
Should the Organic Act be ratified, the elective positions of the regional government shall be held every second Monday of May, the first of which shall be in the next local elections and their terms of office shall be three years.
Expect those politicians, especially those who lost in the last elections and those who won but who are on their last terms, to be actively participating and maybe campaigning for its ratification so that there will be wider choice of positions to run for in the next midterm elections in the year 2025.
By then, the ballots shall become longer because of the elective positions at stake for the autonomous regional government.
The elective positions are the regional governor, regional vice governor, and members of the regional assembly.
The regional governor and vice governor shall belong to the same political party and shall be elected at-large by direct vote of the registered voters of the region. The votes for the regional governor shall then be counted as a vote to the regional vice governor.
The provinces and the City of Baguio shall each elect four representatives to the regional assembly. These elective regional officials are also limited to three consecutive terms.
We have yet to scrutinize well the provisions of the proposed organic act to determine what may be the possible provisions that shall arouse debate during the plebiscite.
But once it is ratified, expect more whimsical chairs to be added to politicians’ unquenchable thirst and unyielding desire for power.