By Michael G. Umaming

 Tabuk City, Kalinga: The young Ifugao congressman smiled then shook his head in reaction to the Regional Development Council’s (RDC) target of a regional election simultaneous with that of the national election.

During the RDC AdCom meeting here last February 7, 2012 in which only Congressman Teddy Baguilat was around, the RDC through its ex-officio vice chairman and NEDA-CAR regional director Leonardo Quitos, Jr., reported proposed key milestones in the pursuit of Regional Autonomy.

“There will be an intensive Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaign as well as alliance building especially with national officials from the first quarter to the third quarter of the year. An IEC impact survey will be done by August, the result of which would be the basis of a more focused IEC and alliance building by the fourth quarter of the year until the first quarter of next year,” stated the RDC report.

 The congressman said he appreciates RDC’s efforts but the target is highly improbable, although not impossible. The RDC had been working on Regional Autonomy since 2007. In December last year it furnished CAR Congressmen copies of the Final Working Draft of the proposed Third Cordillera Autonomy Organic Act.

 The following are Congressman Baguilat’s thoughts on Cordillera Regional Autonomy based on the transcribed proceeding of the meeting (Those in enclosed parenthesis are not the Congressman’s words).

 PNoy on Regional Autonomy

 Up to now, the president has no inkling on what his position is on Cordillera Autonomy – ang pinag-uusapan palagi sa Malacañang are issues of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), many of which are still hanging.

(The latest that was heard from the president was through his political adviser Ronald Llamas who visited the region during the July 15, 2011 Cordillera Day celebration. Llamas said then that the president wanted Cordillera officials to “convince more people to share the aspiration for autonomy by bringing the issue to the grassroots.” The president never touched on autonomy during his 2011 State of the Nation Address).

Even if RDC succeeds in convincing PNoy to certify the Autonomy Bill as priority, there are hundreds of equally important bills certified as urgent since 2010 by the president and yet many of us in the House of Representatives feel that only a few will be acted upon before our term ends.

 With the current impeachment that is occupying the House of Representatives, it would be good if Congress can focus on the bills by March. Just the RH Bill and the Anti-Money Laundering Bill can probably take much of our time for the rest of the year.

 CAR congressmen on Regional Autonomy

 The five CAR congressmen (Congressmen Bernardo Vergara of Baguio City, Manuel Agyao of Kalinga, Eleanor Begtang of Apayao, Maximo Dalog of Mountain Province, and Teddy Baguilat of Ifugao) that filed House Bill 5595 seeking to create a Cordillera Autonomous Region do not necessarily share the same thought on the issue.

 We do not share the same mechanism in the conduct of Autonomy IEC. There are those who wants an IEC campaign to be led by RDC; there are those who are having second thought in giving RDC the lead role; and there are those, which includes me, who take the middle ground – a coordinated IEC by RDC and Congress, which means that every time RDC goes to Kalinga, Congressman Manuel Agyao should be there.

 On autonomy pulse survey

 I am glad you are thinking of conducting an impact survey. I hope you can do one survey earlier. Most of my counterpart from the region relies on what their stakeholders would say and so I really emphasize the need for this.

 I still believe in “All for One, One for All.” I do not want to be party to a mechanism that will divide the Cordillera region. If we feel that all provinces will go for it then go. Pero kung alanganin – we need to do something more.

 HB 5595 is now with the Committee on Local Government

 HB 5595 is now with the Committee on Local Government which scheduled its deliberation on February 22, 2012. He said the committee will have any of the following actions: Bring the bill to a technical working group; Subject it to further deliberations; or Immediately, set consultations with Congress.

 We (CAR congressmen) initially thought of giving the Proposed Third Organic Act prepared by RDC to the UP Law Center for review but we decided to work for a consultation process to be approved by the committee.

 The Senate on Regional Autonomy

 At the Senate level, normally localized bill like this, if it passes in the House of Representatives with no opposition among the concerned congressmen will go smooth sailing. But even then, I am concerned that there would be sectors in the Cordillera which would oppose and bring their noise to the Senate.

(Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III filed Senate Bill No. 3115 calling for the creation of the Cordillera Autonomous Region last February 1, 2012. He said the bill is in fulfillment of the constitution’s mandate to recognize the unique norms, cultural heritage, values and vision of the people of the Cordilleras through the grant of regional autonomy. See Senate Press release: )

Expect a refiled Bill

 Most of the bills in congress are re-filed bills. But what is important with Autonomy is that we start the consultation process.

 The Autonomy Bill may not pass in this Congress but it would be easier for the next Congress to pass it. We might not be there but you will be there.