BAGUIO CITY – Nostalgia permeates the RDC-led 34th Sipat Anniversary Celebration on September 13, 2020. Sadanga Mayor Gabino Ganggangan and Mr. Leonardo Bun-as, surviving witnesses of the Mount Data Sipat, recollect how our Cordillera tribal leaders strongly asserted our rights to land, self-determination, and self-governance during the Marcos administration. They beam with pride as they recall how our tribal leaders stood firm despite pressure from the government forcing us to yield our rights in the face of national development. It was this continued assertion of our rights through our tribal leaders that led to the historic September 13 Mount Data Sipat.

In the Mount Data Sipat, the national government humbled itself and acknowledged the gross injustice it committed against the Cordillera and its people. President Corazon Aquino herself together with some of her cabinet members and officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines met with the region’s grassroots leaders to negotiate the terms for long-lasting peace. Tribal leaders presented the Cordillera peoples’ assertions on our rights to land, self-determination, and self-governance to the President. Then and there, the National Government committed to resolving the issues by establishing Cordillera Regional Autonomy in a peaceful, democratic, and Constitutional process. The discussions and agreements bound both parties through the Sipat.

When Mayor Ganggangan and Mr. Bun-as reminisced our history with sentiment, their demeanor turned serious as they narrated the events following the Sipat. Mayor Ganggangan asserted that “to this day, the Cordillera has kept its end of the bargain by keeping and maintaining the peace but the National Government has yet to fulfill theirs.”  Mr. Bun-as reiterated that the Sipat or the cessation of hostilities as agreed is merely temporary. As long as the Government has not done its obligation to pass into law an acceptable Organic Act embodying the September 13 agreements, there can be no long-lasting peace in the region.

Mayor Ganggangan however said he remains hopeful that Cordillera Regional Autonomy will be achieved under the administration of President Duterte. After all, one of the administration’s focus is ending the local insurgency. He remarked that granting regional autonomy to the Cordillera is a sound and appropriate ELCAC strategy in the region as it addresses the political and economic faces of the insurgency.

The National Government has handed autonomy twice to the Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillera wishes the same. The region has faithfully kept its peace for more than 34 years now. It is now the time for the Government to fulfill its overdue debt to the Cordillera by granting the regional autonomy it yearns for. With this, both Mayor Ganggangan and Mr. Bun-as urged his Excellency President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to certify as urgent and priority, the Cordillera Regional Autonomy Bill.

The RDC-CAR hopes for a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte soon to discuss the Cordillera region’s cry for regional autonomy. Meanwhile, the CAR Congressmen are working hard to facilitate the passing of the Cordillera Regional Autonomy legislative bills in Congress.