Cheryl L. Daytec-Yañgot
Smorgasboard of Random Thought, August 31, 2007

One thing about watching the TV evening news is that you get bolted out of your respite from intellectual processes. History is unfurling. Dreams are being aired, and being shot down on air. And you just have to proclaim your take.  Last night, I learned that discussions on Cordillera autonomy will be revived in Congress. This is in time for the commemoration of the Mt. Data Peace Pact between renegade priest Fr. Conrado Balweg and Pres. Corazon Aquino in the late 1980’s.

I do not know if the public has recovered from fatigue after two failed attempts at the establishment of a Cordillera Autonomous Region.

I was a Director of the Cordillera Executive Board, the body created under Executive Order No. 220 to prepare the Cordillera Region for autonomy (Would you believe I was in my early 20’s when I got the appointment? I was so eager to do something really huge. Before my appointment, I was already aware of the defects of the bureaucratic apparatuses. I thought I was ready to deal with them. Gosh, the defects were endemic, as they are now. No wonder people with vision and the heart for substantive change leave the bureaucracy frustrated.).

I witnessed how the last autonomy bill was crafted. Let me explain the rejection of the last autonomy law this way: The people will resist what they do not identify with. They will all the more resist what goes against their value system. No one is going to shove a meaningless paper into their throats.

That rejected law, which suffered the fate of an earlier one in 1990, did not really foster autonomy. It provided that all decisions on the control of the region’s wealth will be left to the Autonomous Region. This would have been fine, if not for the provision subtly smuggled into the written rhetoric that regional laws must not contravene national laws. Very clever national government! What it professed to give with the right hand, it actually intended to revoke with the left. But we have a more clever people: they hurled the law fast into the trash bin where it properly belonged. Amen! Did those people up there not realize that what has always impelled us to assert our autonomy is the inherent clash between national laws and indigenous laws?

Autonomy is the right to self-determination. It is not granted; it is asserted. The United Nation recognizes the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination as an inalienable collective right.

The initiative should come from the people and not dictated by the national government. If we allow the national government to run the show, we will have a token autonomous region. We ourselves will have authored the rape of our collective right.

We are for the establishment of an autonomous region, one that will allow the Cordillera IP’s to chart their own destiny and wrest control over the natural resources Kabunian intended for them and their descendants. For this, we are ready to reject an Establishment-sponsored “autonomy” law.

By the way, here is a piece I wrote way back:

Macliing Dulag’s Warding-Off Speech

If Kabunian gave you a land of milk and honey
and ordered you to take care of it for posterity
What will you do if intruders want to take
it away?

I imagine that you will fight
For they who do not are ungrateful to
Kabunian; they value not His gift
They ignore his command to defend the land
in the name coming generation thousands of years from now
They who do not, spit on the graves of their ancestors
who preserved the land for them
For land is life
For life is the land

If you were in our place
You will fight
You will fire your guns as we raise our spears
You will probably pay your way to the justice system
that does not understand our ways
For that is what you did to grab the lands of people
Like us on the other side of the mountain

So do not be stubborn in your ignorance of
Why we refuse to vacate the land which had
always been our home

We are the Palestinians in Palestine
The Lumads in Mindanao
The Mangyans in Mindoro
We are the Martians in Mars

Go away. Let our people sleep in peace