Cordillera tribes to draft autonomy law

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BAGUIO CITY: Tribal groups have revived the autonomy movement in the highland Cordillera and they are drafting their own organic act based on the results of an autonomy caravan.

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“Having learned from past mistakes, the fervor for autonomy still lives within our hearts,” said Tingguian (Abra) Melchor Balance of the Maeng tribe who, together with a group of “dreamers,” jumpstarted an “autonomy caravan” in Apayao province to once again drum up interest in their “long-sought dream” of self-governance.

Volunteers and well-meaning citizens as well as Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA) members launched the “Autonomy in the Administrative Cordillera Movement (AMIN-TACO, an acronym meaning “all of us”) in Apayao hoping to reach a consensus among more tribal peoples prior to the drafting of an organic law, said Benedict Ballug, convernor of the group.

The 1987 Constitution gives a legal basis for their autonomy dream, Ballug said.

Balance said the movement for autonomy will grow because Cordillerans, especially the “binodngans” (tribal peoples), want it to happen, Balance enthusiastically explains.

Even Mayor Mauricio Domo–gan of Baguio City has pushed for a Cordillera autonomous region, claiming that it will bring good governance and regional economic growth.

Last week, the “autonomy caravan” gained strides in Apayao as Santa Marcela town Mayor Rolando Guiang, baran–gay chairmen and members of the Federation of Tribal Elders of Apayao headed by Elorde Anniban vowed support.

The AMIN-TACO movement for autonomy shall prepare a “tribal version” of the Organic Act after consulting the tribal communities all over the Cordillera, which are reached and consulted through direct participation in the consultations, Ballug explained.

Cordillerans have twice rejected organic acts (Republic Acts 6477 and 8438) through the plebiscites in 1993 and 1998. Ballug said a third attempt by local government units and political leaders will only suffer the same fate “because it pre-supposed the role of politicians in a supposedly tribal environment.”

An autonomy pulse survey of the state’s Regional Development Council, (RDC) found that both laws were “rejected due to lack of understanding and appreciation of what autonomy was all about as contained and explained in the two Organic Acts.” Many communities unfortunately, were not involved in the information campaign.

Cordillera Bodong Administration (CBAd) president-designate and Igorot leader Alfonso Magannon expressed optimism that a tribal version of the Organic Act will convince the tribal folks to once again agree to forward the cause for autonomy.

An organic act that comes directly from the people and the tribes would gain widespread approval, Ballug said.

After Apayao, the “autonomy caravan” will move to Kalinga and other provinces in the region, Balance said. He former CPLA leaders and followers who have opted to keep silence.

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