(As of August 2009)
A. Events leading to the adoption and implementation of the RDC-CAR autonomy agenda
1. 2006 RDC Strategic Planning Workshop. The Regional Development Council-Cordillera Administrative Region (RDC-CAR) held a Strategic Planning Workshop on March 20-21, 2006 at Mt. Data, Hotel, Bauko, Mt. Province and after an overall assessment of the state of CAR regional development, arrived at the conclusion that after 19 years of existence CAR continues to lag behind in socio-economic development compared to the rest of the North Luzon regions and will remain so unless radical action would redirect and quicken Cordillera development.
The common explanatory observation and reasoning among the regional line agency (RLA) representatives during the workshop was that there was very little regional initiative in the formulation of programs/projects as well as very little flexibility in spending regional budgets as RLAS are following the priority dictates of their Central Offices in the planning and implementation of programs/projects. The consequent consensus arrived at was for RLAs to be granted more autonomy or flexibility in deciding and implementing programs/projects and in allocating resources also significantly slanted towards regional priority thrusts. The collective realization was that the Constitutionally mandated creation of a Cordillera autonomous region could be the radical factor that could hasten/fasttrack CAR’s socio-economic development.
The RDC then adopted regional autonomy as the overarching theme of Cordillera regional development and decided to renew the pursuit of the same. Also, the establishment of an autonomous region in the Cordillera is a Constitutional provision that remains to be pursued but no one else is officially pursuing the same. The formal adoption of the renewed pursuit of regional autonomy was done in the RDC En Banc meeting following the Strategic Planning Workshop through RDC Resolution No. CAR-06 series of 2006.
2. RDC-CAR re-invents itself. With the adoption of the renewed pursuit of regional autonomy, the RDC CAR assumed the function of the de-activated CAR bodies (Cordillera Executive Board, Cordillera Regional Assembly, Cordillera Bodong Administration) relative to preparing the region for autonomy. This is within the framework that: (1) Executive Order 220 created CAR as a preparatory step towards the eventual creation of an autonomous region in the Cordillera; and (2) consequent to the de-activation of the CAR bodies, President Arroyo issued EO 30 mandating the creation of an RDC for CAR following the RDC Law or EO 325.
3. Validation of the agenda. The CAR bodies managed the region from 1987 to July 2000 according to the purposes for which CAR was created under EO 220: (1) to administer the affairs of government in the region; (2) to accelerate the economic and social growth and development of the units of the region; and (3) to prepare for the establishment of the autonomous region in the Cordilleras. During their term, two Organic Acts were enacted by Congress and put to vote in two separate plebiscites and were both rejected. First in January 1990, the region voted against Republic Act 6766. More accurately, only the province of Ifugao voted for the first proposed Organic Act. Then again in March 1998, only the province of Apayao voted for the second proposed Organic Act or Republic Act 8438.
Then in May 2000, RA 8760 or the 2000 General Appropriations Act (GAA) was passed by Congress with a Special Provision granting the CAR bodies an annual budget of 1 peso per year thereby virtually de-activating these bodies. On 15 June 2000, Attorney Nestor Atitiw, et. al. filed a petititon with the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of this Special Provision of the 2000 GAA that in effect de-activated the CAR bodies.
While awaiting the SC ruling, EO 270 was issued on 20 July 2000 by then President Joseph Estrada ordering the wind-up operations of the CAR bodies and where separation benefits for CAR bodies’ officers and employees were provided. Then on 30 July 2001, EO 30 was issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo creating a Regional Development Council for CAR following a similar structure of the regular administrative regions in the country to address the vacuum in regional development coordination arising from the de-activation of the CAR bodies.
On 30 September 2005, the Supreme Court issued its decision in the case of Atitiw, et. al. ruling that “The (Supreme) Court is without authority to compel the Executive Branch to implement the provisions of E.O. No. 220 or to restore its budgetary allocation to its previous level” under the principle of separation of powers. The Supreme Court further expressed the following prayer in its ruling: “It is hoped that Congress will pass another Organic Act which is finally acceptable to the people of the Cordilleras.”
4. Obtaining national government support.
4.1 RDC-ACO (Agency Central Office) Budget Dialogue. In the budget dialogue among RDCs and National Government Agency Central Offices (NGA COs) called and managed by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on 2 June 2006 at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, the RDC-CAR delegation headed by then RDC Chair Governor Maximo Dalog of Mt. Province and RDC Co-Chair Dr. Virgilio Bautista negotiated with Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya to include a budget allocation in the 2007 GAA for CAR to again pursue regional autonomy. Secretary Andaya agreed provided that: (1) Cordillera Congressmen support the move, which was subsequently obtained via a joint letter of CAR Congressmen collectively supporting the same; and (2) that NEDA Director General Romulo Neri agree that the autonomy budget be attached to the NEDA agency budget, to which Secretary Neri agreed provided the same shall not affect the NEDA budget ceiling. The budget to support social preparation for the Cordillera to become regionally autonomous is therefore just attached to the NEDA budget, and not an integral part of the NEDA agency budget.