Deputy Speaker Bai Sema of the First District of Maguindanao (left) calls on other Representatives (right) to grant autonomy to the Cordillera (Photos courtesy of IAG).

January 17, 2018 – Maguindanao First District Representative and Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sema declared strong support to the Cordillera’s pursuit of regional autonomy during the First Congressional Forum on Autonomy held at the Batasan Complex, Quezon City on January 17, 2018.

Autonomy is better than independence, you think so?” she asked the members and staff of the Lower House, to which they responded with enthusiastic cheers and booming applause. She then declared, “Then let us give it”.

She said that she was “very happy to see the other community who fought invaders are now trying to regain back their right to self-determination”, in reference to the historic defense against foreign rule of both the Cordilleras and the Bangsamoro.

She expressed that the freedom and right to self-determination of both the Cordillera and the ARMM, “has been fought for, and no less than the Constitution of 1987 recognizes both communities.” She was referring to Article X, Section 15 of the 1987 Constitution mandating the creation of autonomous regions in Cordillera and in Muslim Mindanao consisting of geographical areas that share, among others, common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage.

Pursuant to this mandate, the ARMM was established under R.A. 6734, and was strengthened and expanded under R.A. 9054. The Autonomous Region of the Cordillera, however, has yet to be realized.

Deputy Speaker Sema also called on the leaders and advocates of the Cordillera autonomy to support the ARMM’s own pursuit towards becoming the Bangsamoro State through the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). “As you are inviting me to become part of your fight for autonomy, I would also likewise ask you to help us have that BBL,” she said.

The Cordillera and ARMM have in the past years enhanced their coordination, partnership and support towards one another’s aspirations of self-governance. More recently, the First North-South Consultations and Cultural Exchange Visit between the two regions was conducted in February 2017 at Baguio City, and was followed by a Cordillera-Bangsamoro Knowledge-Sharing on Autonomy, Federalism and Peace in June 2017 in Manila.

More engagements between the two regions are expected this year as they have mutually expressed support to each other’s aspiration to achieve self-governance especially with the current debate on the shift to federal government.

The First Congressional Forum on Autonomy was organized by the Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC-CAR) and the Cordillera National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA-CAR) together with the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) and the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD). (Jared Jeric B. dela Cruz, NEDA- SPCAR)