La Trinidad, Benguet:  Representatives of NGOs, municipal LGUs, line agencies and peoples organizations from the municipalities of Kabayan, Bokod, Atok, Bakun, Buguias, Mankayan, Itogon, Tuba and Sablan filled the Ben Palispis Hall of the Benguet Capitol here last July 13, 2011 as part of the series of consultations that the province of Benguet is conducting. The province had been busy conducting consultations on Regional Autonomy after it accessed P225,000.00 of a P500,000.00 allotment from the RDC Special Autonomy Fund (SAF) to conduct Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaign and get feedback on the issue from its constituents. 

Earlier in June 15, 2011, the same sectors from the municipalities of Kapangan, Kibungan, Tublay and La Trinidad also had their consultations.  Barangay consultations are to be conducted on July 27, and August 2 and 3. 

In the July 13 consultation, Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwan requested participants to further study the draft third organic act and give their feedbacks on or before July 29, 2011 for consideration in the final drafting.                

Fears on regional autonomy because of the ARMM experience with the Ampatuans (e.g. corruption and abuse of power) were surfaced during the consultations.  One participant even suggested if it is possible for the province to have an interim membership to the autonomous government.                  

Dr. Peter Cosalan, an Ibaloi and a member of the RDC representing indigenous people, said this Ampatuan fear should be addressed during the barangay consultations. 

He suggested a parliamentary form of election where members of the regional assembly, elected by their constituents, will select the governor and vice governor, through a consensus process closer to the Tungtungan system.  The vice governor and governor should also be limited for only one 6-year term.                

Tungtungan, is the indigenous way of arriving at a decision after thorough discussion and consensus building. 

“The process is longer but less divisive and it will reduce the cost of election for the regional positions and consequently will reduce graft and corruption,”  said Cosalan.