BAGUIO CITY — House Bill 4649, the act for the creation of a Cordillera autonomous region, did not pass in the 16th Congress but Cordillera lawmakers are expected to refile it for the third time in the 17th Congress.

Under the new rules of the House of Representatives, it will be a priority bill in the same committee if re-filed in the 17th Congress, according to Cagayan De Oro City Representative Rufus Rodriguez of the House’ local government committee.

Baguio City Rep. Nicasio Aliping, Jr. expressed optimism here that since the House Committee on Local Governments has approved the passage of the bill at the committee level, the process paved the way for its endorsement to the plenary session of Congress for second reading and approval.

Aliping said that the committee approved the bill last February 1, and he had been tasked, he said, by Committee Chair Pedro Acharon to head the ad hoc committee to conduct public consultations in the six Cordillera provinces and Baguio City..

Aliping said that after these consultations, the ad hoc committee received no objections to the draft bill, ensuring, he said, its swift approval at Acharon’s committee.

Mt. Province Rep. Maximo Dalog confirmed Aliping’s statement and that the report was read before the members of the committee last February 1, saying that the ad hoc Committee received no objection, or major proposal to amend the proposed measure.”

Dalog said that those who attended the public consultations expressed overwhelming support for the passage of the proposed measure. He added that the committee received several manifestos, resolutions from the local governments of the Cordilleras including non-government and peoples’ organizations, endorsing the measure which was presented to them during the public hearings.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castello and Rep. Carlos Padilla of Nueva Vizcaya signified their intention of co-authoring the Cordillera bill together with all the lawmakers.

As this developed, former Akbayan Partylist Walden Bello, who is running as an independent candidate for senator, said that the Cordillera autonomy has been neglected by President Aquino since he was focused on the approval of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL)

Bello said that the attention should have been both– the Cordillera autonomy and the Mindanao autonomous region — as provided for under the Constitution.

He said that despite the filling of the organic act of the Cordillera, it has been not prioritized by the Aquino government. Even the Lower House, he said, did not touch it because majority of the members were preoccupied with the BBL
“Given the chance to win this election, I will move for the approval of both the autonomous regions of Cordillera and Mindanao bills; otherwise, we are violating the rights of our country’s indigenous peoples”, Bello, an Ilokano whose roots are traced to the Ilocos, said. THOM PICANA/