April 17, 2024

Optimism is high the Cordillera will finally attain an autonomous status under the current administration when ranking regional leaders led the 36th commemoration of the Mt. Data Peace Accord on Sept. 13 in Bauko, Mountain Province.
Presidential Adviser for Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Sec. Carlito Galvez, Jr., guest speaker of the event, has urged Cordillera leaders to make a manifestation requesting President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. to certify the autonomy bill as urgent.
“Gagawin ko po ang aking makakaya para maipaabot sa ating mahal na Presidente dahil ito ay isang milestone sa ating peace process; ito na lang ang nalalabing rehiyon na nakasaad sa ating konstitusyon na maging autonomous,” Galvez said.
The 1987 Constitution allows an autonomous setup in the Cordillera and in Muslim Mindanao.
But only the latter, now called Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Barmm), has been established through the ratification of its basic law, the Bangsamoro Organic Law.
Galvez said once the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (Opapru) receives the manifestations from the barangay captains, mayors, governors, and the seven lawmakers, they will do the necessary staff work and forward it to the Office of the President.
He said it is high time that House Bill 5687 or an act establishing the autonomous region of the Cordillera, which was approved in Congress on third and final reading last June 2, will move forward.
“Kailangan magmula ang hinaing na maging autonomous ang Cordillera sa mga tao dahil nakita natin na ang nakaraang plebiscites ay kulang tayo ng education at information sa ating mga mamamayan,” he said.
He said once the autonomy bill is ratified, the region needs to prepare for its information education campaign. He said the information on the gains of the region to have self-rule is critical for the public, especially on the grassroots level.
“Kung tayo’y padalos-dalos at matalo sa eleksyon, at hindi ma-ratify, magkakaroon na naman tayo ng frustration,” he said. 
Galvez said aside from the preparation of the people, the system, machinery, and processes need to be prepared prior to the plebiscite. The latter will allow the region’s residents to vote if they are in favor of autonomy or not.
With the gains currently seen with the formation of Barmm, he said their office is now citing it as an example.
He said Barmm’s economy grew by 7.5 percent in 2021, second to Region 4, and beating the National Capital Region.
He said foreign investments in the region are also rising. 
Close to 500 individuals attended the 36th commemoration of the historic event at Mt. Data Hotel, attended by Galvez, local officials led by governors Bonifacio Lacwasan, Jr. of Mountain Province and James Edduba of Kalinga, and agency heads, among others.
During the event, the rosary, which was one of the tokens presented during the peace accord, and the original Mt. Data logbook, was presented as peace memorabilia.
On Sept. 13, 1986, the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army led by then renegade priest Conrado Balweg forged a sipat (cessation of hostilities) with the national government then led by President Corazon Aquino.
The historic event led to the signing of Executive Order 220, establishing the Cordillera Administrative Region on July 15, 1987. – Ofelia C. Empian