BAGUIO CITY –  Partners of the Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC-CAR) gathered for a two-day Partners’ Assembly in Baguio City on January 15 and 16 to review the newly-filed proposed Cordillera Organic Law, the accomplishment of the advocacy program in 2019 and to strategize ways in helping the advocacy in 2020. “We offer our services to the CAR Congressmen”, said Former DENR-CAR Executive Director and Autonomy advocate Clarence Baguilat during the open forum discussing ways in advancing the bill in Congress and raising awareness in the grassroots level in the region.

RDC Vice-Chair and NEDA-CAR Regional Director Milagros Rimando expressed her high hopes for the passage of this version of the proposed Cordillera Organic Law. Rimando recognized the dynamism and commitment of the Cordillera lawmakers in the 18th Congress.

RDC Chair and Abra Governor Joy Bernos previously stated that in her time as representative of Abra in the 15th and 16th Congress, the filing of the Organic was treated as mere compliance. It is recalled that in December 2019, Bernos challenged the current Cordillera Congressmen to push for the law’s passing. The Congressmen accepted the challenge and shared their plans in gathering partner legislators from other regions and committees to bolster support for the bill. It was agreed during the assembly that the partners shall help NEDA-CAR and the CAR Congressmen in gaining support for the bill in the region.

NEDA-CAR also held a training for the advocates to update knowledge and enhance skills for information dissemination and advocacy. Abreñan filmmaker Dexter Macaraeg discussed the power of film in advocacy and telling the Cordilleran autonomy story. Using the universal language of film, Macaraeg offered his services in crafting a story showing the diversity and unity of the Cordillera people in the pursuit of self-determination.

Cordilleran youth and policy researcher Karin Bangsoy later detailed the potential of social media in advocacy particularly for the youth (ages 18-35) who comprise more than half of the current registered voting population of the region. Bangsoy shared the sentiments of the Autonomy advocates who observed that during IEC activities, the Cordilleran youth have been receptive to discussions on Cordilleran identity. A shared sense of identity and pride for one’s culture have been key themes among the youth. Bangsoy urged advocates to emphasize this in social media and in the field during activities.

The NEDA Social Preparation of CAR into an Autonomous Region (NEDA-SPCAR) program has maintained grassroots IEC activities to be the primary project of the advocacy to raise awareness and secure the support of Cordillerans for autonomy. In 2020, the RDC through NEDA-CAR aims to build on the accomplishment of the previous years of IEC activities by training and re-training new and old Autonomy IEC speakers. With the RDC-CAR roadmap having 2020 as the year the Cordillera Organic law shall be passed, there are also initiatives to further strengthen its social media presence and expand alliance-building activities among Philippine legislators and the Office of the President.