Roque urges Cordillerans to lobby for autonomy


SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union — Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque has urged Cordillerans to continue lobbying with congressmen for the passage of an autonomy bill so the upland region would get what it has been longing for.

“Perhaps, the people of Cordillera should lobby like the rest of the Muslim areas that they should be accorded either autonomy or a separate federal state,” Roque said in a press briefing here Wednesday.

He said what the Cordillerans are clamoring for does not run counter to what President Rodrigo Duterte desires for the country.

Alam n’yo po, wala pong incompatibility doon sa ninanais ni Presidente magkaroon ng pederalismo sa hinihingi na otonomiya ng Cordillera. Iyan din naman po ang hinihingi ng ating mga kapatid na Muslim (You know, there is no incompatibility between the federalism that the President wants and the autonomy being sought by Cordillera. That’s what our Muslim brothers are also seeking, anyway),” he said.

“So, sa akin po, inherently, philosophically, politically, wala pong pagkakaiba ang ninanais ng ating Pangulo na magkaroon ng tunay na otonomiya ang mga local na pamahalaan. So sa tingin ko po, baka naman hindi sasalungat ang Presidente, bagama’t hindi ko po masabi unequivocally na kung ano talaga ang magiging impact nung autonomy bill doon sa proposed amendments to the Constitution providing for a federal form of government (I think there’s really no difference from what the President wants, so I don’t think he would disagree with that. I am not sure, though, how this would affect the proposed amendments to the Constitution providing for a federal form of government),” he added.

Meanwhile, Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC) vice chairman Milagros Rimando on Thursday said Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri has committed to sponsor a Cordillera autonomy bill in the Senate to help fast-track the longtime clamor of the region’s people.

In a telephone interview, Rimando said they are happy with the result of the national forum for congressmen at the Batasang Pambansa on Wednesday.

RDC chairman Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan and Rimando headed the group of Cordillerans who trooped to the House of Representatives for the event organized by the Institute for Autonomy and Governance.

The national forum was aimed at informing members of the Congress about House Bill 5343, which is pending before a committee of the lower house, including the history behind the clamor for autonomy.

Rimando said it is part of the activities of the RDC to get the support of national leaders and get the numbers when the bill is discussed in the plenary for its passage.

She added that during Wednesday’s event, a suggestion was aired to also have a Senate counterpart of the bill to help fast-track the approval of a bill that would be the basis for the conduct of a plebiscite.

In her explanation, she said that according to congressmen, they will end their term in 2019, which is just more than a year from now. This means there is a need to re-file the bill if overtaken by events.

However, if there is a Senate counterpart, the senators’ term is six years, which will be longer and might be the answer to the issue on fast-tracking the approval.

She explained that after Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Jesus Dureza learned that HB 5343 is pending before a committee chaired by the Congressman of General Santos City, Dureza immediately called up Zubiri to explain the situation and ask for help.

Zubiri, thus, agreed to sponsor a Senate bill and gave his commitment to support autonomy for the Cordillera region.

Rimando said the forum was also attended by two officials of the Bangsamoro – the deputy speaker and a commissioner of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).

She said the Bangsamoro leaders also committed their support and expressed the desire for a collaboration to obtain the passage of the House bills, which both Mindanao and Cordillera are clamoring for.

During the event, the Baguio mayor discussed the history of the Cordillera and the House bill, while Dureza talked about the national importance of autonomy and lawyer Benny Bacani of AIG re-explained the options of Cordillera whether in a unitary government and if there will be a shift to federalism before the autonomy is obtained.

Meanwhile, Dr. Romulo Miral Jr., director general of the congressional policy resources department, talked about the fiscal viability of Cordillera autonomy.

On its 30th year in 2017, the RDC is gradually obtaining support from different sectors locally and at the national level, such as from Dureza.

The Cordillera leaders have also gone to Malacañang to get President Rodrigo Duterte’s support. In the meeting, the President said he would pay as much attention to the Cordillera autonomy as the Bangsamoro Basic Law. with Pamela Mariz Geminiano/PNA (Photo by ERWIN BELEO/NPN)