By WENDY ATUBAN and IRENE CEBA
www.nordis.net,
Sun 19 Apr 2009

BAGUIO CITY — Rep. Mauricio Domogan says the speed-up in the economic, socio, and infrastructure development is what he sees in the autonomy bid that the Cordillera Administrative Region’ pursues.

He expressed his dismay over the two failed autonomy laws due to lack of information dissemination and time constraints which caused the region’s failed bid for an autonomous region.

In an interview with Nordis, Domogan discussed the main benefits that the region would gain if it only takes advantage of the autonomy provision in the 1987 constitution. The constitution mandates for an autonomous regions for Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras, where the former had achieved while the Cordillera had rejected twice in two plebiscites: on January 30, 1990 and March 7, 1998.

Among the benefits, Domogan said would result is the development of the region in terms of socio-economic, and infrastructure.

If Cordillera autonomy would be achieved, the region would be given the rights to manage itself and the different sectors and line agencies would directly report to the autonomous region instead, he said. This he alleged, would result to the region’s development.

Misconception is one of the reasons why majority of the provinces voted no in the past two plebiscites, Domogan added. The misconception that an autonomous region may cause another opportunity for graft and corruption.

Genuine autonomy

On the other hand, A leader of an elders organization says that there can be no genuine autonomy when the Philippines is not truely free from foreign interests.

Johnny Sawadan, deputy secretary general of the Cordillera Elders Assembly (CEA), said that the above “misconception” is rooted to a common knowledge that the government is full of graft and corruption.

“How do you assure that graft and corruption will not rise in this new autonomous government structure if the national government itself is full of it?” he asked.

He said they are not against autonomy, but clarified, they pursue genuine autonomy instead.

The Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) – where CEA is a member – is established for asserting self-determination for the Cordillera peoples, he said adding that: “the government version of autonomy is different from the genuine autonomy that we are campaigning for.”

The right to freely determine your political status and freely pursue socio-economic and cultural development at your own pace is the autonomy that cannot be achieve right now because the government is not truly autonomous, he said.

“The Philippine government system itself is not free. It is still under the control and influence of foreign power” he said adding: “until the Philippines does not achieve its full freedom, it cannot establish an autonomous region.”

Sawadan cited three main reasons where their version of autonomy differs from what is pursued by the government: First, CPA and allied organizations believe that the national government must first achieve its independence from foreign control before autonomy can be achieved;

Second, the government wants a top down and fast-tracked process to achieve autonomy. While CPA believes it should start at the village or grassroots based step-by-step process; and,

Lastly, the government version fails to address the central issues of the Cordillera people which is the full control of their land and resources which is CPA’s main campaign – for self-determination and the defense of the ancestral domain.

According to Domogan, the change in the political system will improve the situation of the people as its fund allotment will help the region catch up economically with other regions.

But Sawadan said that even if there is no autonomy, a government can pursue development if they have the political will for to achieve it.

Sawadan also cited the situation of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, where it is called an autonomous government but it doesn’t reflect that it is autonomous.

No budget for 2009 gov’t autonomy campaign

Meanwhile, Arthuro Aro, Supervising Environment Development Specialist of Regional Development Council, said they might conduct another survey in relation to people’s awareness about the autonomy bid and its benefits.

At this moment, they will focus on the information dissemination by targeting different organizations and sectors in the region.

However, Aro sees a need to reprogram and refocus RDC’s already programmed activities for the information education as a result of the unexplained omission of the autonomy fund from the General Appropriations Act of 2009.

As a result of this, he anticipates that the Cordillera peoples will have to contend with minimal and deficient information education about the issues on autonomy.

On the other hand, Sawadan said that the CPA member organizations are also active in their information campaign about the genuine autonomy through their different chapters in the provinces. # nordis.net