BAGUIO CITY – The Cordillera Regional Office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR) organized a forum on the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act and the region’s pursuit of autonomy and self-governance on August 11. Autonomy advocates Atty. Leilene Gallardo and Michael Umaming discussed the key features of Cordillera autonomy and its relation to the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997.

The event was part of the NCIP celebration of the International Indigenous Peoples’ Day. NCIP-CAR focused on educating the young scholars of the NCIP Educational Assistance Program (EAP) with lectures on the unique history of the Cordillera and the struggle for self-determination.

Former NCIP-CAR Regional Director Atty. Leilene Gallardo discussed the key features of the proposed Cordillera autonomy law which she helped draft and submitted to the CAR Congressmen for their consideration. The students showed interest in the topic by asking questions on the seasoned lawyer’s presentation. One student raised concern over fellow Igorots who cannot participate in the plebiscite for Cordillera autonomy as they are domiciled in towns adjacent to the Cordillera like Cervantes, Ilocos Sur,  and Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya.

Michael Umaming of NCIP-CAR highlighted the Cordillerans’ role in championing indigenous peoples’ rights not just for the Cordillera but of the whole country. He shared that the Cordillerans helped craft a significant part of the IPRA. Umaming added that regional autonomy will only serve to enhance and better implement the IPRA in the Cordillera region.

The students participated in a mock plebiscite and 92% voted yes to establishing Cordillera autonomy while 8% remained undecided. The event was organized by NCIP-CAR in coordination with the Regional Development Council through NEDA-CAR. The youth sector is a priority for information dissemination based on the RDC communication plan and roadmap for achieving Cordillera autonomy towards federalism.