by Michael Umaming/NEDA-CAR

“This is what we had been waiting for,” said Rep. Teddy Baguilat of the province of Ifugao in reaction to the pulse survey that the RDC conducted in July to September this year.

“I think this validated more or less our personal observations relative to how far we have reached in regional autonomy information, education and communication (IEC) campaign,” Baguilat said.

The survey result showed about 76.8% had not heard of House Bill 5595. But compared to the first pulse survey in 2007, there had been an increased in the number of people who would likely say “yes” if an autonomy plebiscite is to be done (see related story on Recent Pulse Survey).

The result of the RDC Pulse Survey which was conducted July to September this year was presented by RDC Vice Chairperson and NEDA-CAR Director Milagros Rimando during the RDC Advisory Committee (AdCom) meeting at the Batasan Complex in Quezon City last October 16, 2012.  This was attended by all CAR congressmen except Rep. Jocelyn Bernos of Abra who was accordingly on travel abroad.

“This is a good start,” said Congressman Manuel Agyao. “An important step, while we are campaigning in the provinces is to lobby the Committee on Appropriations to act favorably on House Bill (HB) 5595 (Act Creating an Autonomous Region in the Cordillera),” he said.

“Agtitinnulong tayo koma nga makisarita iti chairman ti appropriations committee (We should help each other in reaching out to committee on appropriations),” said Agyao.

The house bill was approved by the Local Government Committee in February of this year. The next step is for the Committee on Appropriations to act on it.

Congressman Ronald Cosalan of Benguet, who refused to attach his signature to the house bill as co-author reiterated his reason for doing so. I have to ask the chairman of the Committee on Local Government to recall the approval because how can a bill as important as Regional Autonomy pass the committee in less than 5 minutes and which was previously discussed by Congress long time ago in 1997,” he said.

Cosalan further explains: “Nevertheless, I am happy with this one (Pulse Survey). In my province, we will have to do grassroots consultations down to the barangay level to revalidate this survey then I can join my Cordillera colleagues in co-authoring the bill.”

Vergara expressed hope that the bill can still be passed in the present congress before the election period. He said that in getting the president to certify the HB 5595 as urgent, we should rely more on Congressmen Baguilat and Cosalan who are close to the president.

Representative Eleanor Begtang said she is happy about the survey result in Apayao. She however expressed apprehension as the survey respondents only comprised 6 percent of the voting population and that students of Apayao State College had been asking her to speak on autonomy in their campus because many of them still do not understand the issue.

“Our goal to become an autonomous region should not exclude any province – Dapat sabay-sabay tayo lahat (the provinces should all vote for autonomy at the same time),” Begtang said.

Rep. Maximo Dalog of Mountain Province said that if only there is a focused campaign we can easily get 50 percent of the voting population.

The RDC AdCom, which is comprised of members of the RDC ExCom and congressmen of the region meets once a year. This meeting saw the most number of congressmen.