BAGUIO CITY – A manifesto of support for the establishment of the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC) was crafted by Cordillera civil society organizations (CSOs) during the CSO Consultation on Autonomy towards Federalism/Charter Change conducted by NEDA-CAR last November 7. This activity is in line with the Cordillera Regional Development Council’s (RDC-CAR) efforts to gather support from different stakeholders to complement the filing of a new autonomy bill in the 18th Congress.

The manifesto echoes the commitment of the CSOs “to consciously and actively participate” in the autonomy advocacy through continuing Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) campaigns and programs within the context of their respective visions, missions, and mandates. The CSOs also urged the Cordillera Congressmen to “immediately pass the Organic Act”. Aside from drafting a manifesto of support to autonomy in a plenary session, the CSOs also learned more about autonomy through a forum.

Speaker Atty. Tomas Kiwang Jr. began the consultation with a backgrounder on the legal, fiscal, and socio-cultural rationale behind the region’s pursuit of autonomy. This was followed by an open forum where participants raised questions on the difference between autonomy and federalism, the comparison of the political structure under the proposed ARC to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), and the issues surrounding autonomy in the past such as the political motivations behind it and the failure of previous efforts to ratify and pass an autonomy bill.

Ms. Maricar Docyogen of the Pasakalye Artists of Baguio expressed her organization’s willingness to help in advancing the autonomy advocacy through different art media such as films and comics. She noted that previous efforts to forward autonomy lacked information dissemination thus the need to maximize use of different IEC tools. Executive Director Ms. Claire Henderson of Helping Hands, Healing Hearts Ministries Philippines Inc. also advised that the autonomy bill must recognize the respective needs of different sectors to which CSOs cater to. Additionally, Ms. Jeanira Okubo of Pilipina, Inc. reminded the group to be vigilant in the passing of an autonomy bill because it may be “watered-down”.

The CSO manifesto will be included in the list of resolutions and manifestos of support to autonomy gathered from all Sangguniang Panlalawigan/Panlungsod and League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) in the region, Cordillera Association of Regional Executives (CARE), RDC and Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC)-CAR and other stakeholders reached through the IECs of RDC-CAR’s Social Preparation of Cordillera into an Autonomous Region (SPCAR) Program.

The aforementioned resolutions and manifestos are expected to be presented in a multi-stakeholder gathering for autonomy towards federalism/charter change this coming December.