TABUK CITY, Kalinga—President Rodrigo Duterte will speak about the Cordillera region’s renewed quest for autonomy in his State of the Nation Address or Sona in July this year, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus P. Dureza committed to local officials on Monday.
Dureza said the President will speak about Cordillera’s desire for self-governance once lawmakers file the proposed autonomy bill in the House of Representatives by the first quarter of this year.
The peace adviser attended the Regional Development Council-CAR first quarter meeting here and spoke during the 22nd founding anniversary of Kalinga and its 1st Bodong festival.
Dureza said he will also discuss with the President the local proposal of certifying the autonomy bill as an urgent administration measure, because “it is in line with his current advocacy on federalism.”
He urged Cordillerans to go for autonomy first because it is already enshrined in the Constitution, as achieving federalism will take some time “because of the sensitive national issues involved in the proposed shift in the form of government from presidential to federal.”
The adviser stressed that Cordillera could co-exist with a federal state because it could still become an autonomous region, “which is to the greater advantage of the Cordillera in the future, having the authority to govern its affairs and enjoying optimum share from the resources of the region.”
“We should listen to everyone. ‘We should always be inclusive in our efforts because it is the right time for the region to achieve its desired autonomous status,” Dureza stressed.
While some in the region have opposed autonomy, the peace adviser said “the voice of the majority is important” in the process of converting the region into an autonomous one in the future.
“It must be inclusive to get a common aspiration to push autonomy forward,” he added.
Dureza advised the RDC to ensure that the Cordillera Autonomy bill should be passed by Congress soonest, because it is “the best tactical move to undertake at present. The review on the constitutionality of the bill could be undertaken later.”
President Duterte is supportive of “downloading” more autonomy to local government units, as manifested by his administration’s advocacy on federalism, the adviser said.
Dureza encouraged the regional council to go with the President’s roadmap on federalism, but not to wait for federalism to be realized.
The push for both the Bangsamoro and Cordillera autonomy should continue because it will become the pilot or the test case for moving towards a federal state, he added.
Dureza observed the show of unity of the Cordillera leaders in pushing for autonomy and the presence of the factions of the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army, and said that “such unity is needed.”
In the same meeting, the third draft of the Cordillera Autonomy bill was presented by the Technical Working Group through Atty. Amador Batay-an. The Council approved the filing of the bill with conditions to enhance the provisions on the devolved powers to the regional government, and the period for the conduct of information campaign prior to a plebiscite, which were appealed by Baguio City Mayor Domogan.
In response, Kalinga Cong. Jesse Mangaong and Ifugao Cong. Teddy Baguilat consistently reiterated their strong commitment to file the bill once the RDC endorses the same.
Congressman Baguilat disclosed that there are reservations among Cordillera leaders but then again, they agreed that they will file the bill and that issues shall be refined during committee deliberations.
Hearing this, Secretary Dureza lauded the leaders for their support. He asked them to market the bill in Congress to invite co-authors and generate national support. He also stressed the importance of a Communications Plan to guide the RDC on the strategies to be undertaken in marketing and advocating Cordillera autonomy.