By ABIGAIL B. ANONGOS
The public consultations on House Bill 5343 (An Act to Establish the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera) have commenced. This, while Charter Change is being campaigned for by its proponents, mainly the PDP-Laban camp with the intention of shifting to a federalist form of government. By itself there is nothing wrong with federalism or even amending the Constitution but we are more concerned of the real score behind the push for Charter Change which is beyond federalism.
A study of the proposed amendments to the Constitution from both the PDP-Laban version and Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 8 summarizes that Cha-Cha only aims to further grant dictatorial powers to the president, weaken the protectionist provisions of the 1987 Constitution and further violate people’s rights. In other words, make the present situation worst. We just witnessed in last week the ouster of CJ Sereno in the final and desperate attempt of the administration to mar judicial independence and finally consolidate all three branches of government. Interested readers may refer to the in-depth review and analysis of Atty. Neri Colmenares Oppose Charter Change Under the Duterte Administration to read the actual amendments to provisions of the Constitution in one assembly of the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT).
To cite a few examples, PDP-Laban deleted the following provisions: provision prohibiting foreign transnational corporations and aliens TNCs from acquiring lands, “The Congress may provide for the applicability of customary laws governing property rights or relations in determining the ownership and extent of ancestral domain” and many others. The RBH meanwhile proposes “Sovereignty resides in the Filipino people THROUGH SUFFRAGE and all government authority xxx emanates from them” over “sovereignty resides in the people and ALL government authority emanates from them” which is provided in all Philippine Constitutions since 1935.
This is where the federalism proponents fall short. They discuss federalism totally unhinged on Charter Change, like the two were unrelated. They present their model of federalism and highlight the gains and successes of federalist states or nations, but do not discuss the actual proposed amendments to the Constitution. They do not discuss that for federalism to take place, the 1987 Constitution must be amendment. I witnessed this from one presentation of PDP Laban during the Philippine Political Science Association Conference Luzon Regional Conference. By all accounts, such is deception.
Thus, to be informed the actual proposed amendments to the Constitution would be of great help to the public so that they are empowered to make an informed decision and know for themselves the deception posed by the proponents. It should be of interest to indigenous peoples in the Cordillera to know of the impact of Charter Change to our remaining unexploited resources. Lastly, there is no clamor for federalism presently save for the proponents.
Cordillera Peoples Alliance organised a workshop on Charter Change, Federalism and Genuine Regional Autonomy last April 23 as part of the 2018 Cordillera Day. Much thanks to Atty. Erin Tañada who substantiated the shared inputs from Nato Reyes of and I, especially with the practical questions raised by participants. As discussed by Atty.Tañada, many of the concerns on governance can be realised even without Charter Change since there is already a Local Government Code. To strengthen its implementation or even study the possibility of making amendments to it could therefore be useful.
Back to House Bill 5343. This would be the fourth attempt if I am not mistaken, to create a Cordillera autonomous region. But as long as it does not address the urgent issues of kakailian, it may as well expect another rejection. Will it put an end to the systematic violation of indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination by the State and big businesses? Will the trumped-up charges be dropped against the 5 Cordillera women human rights defenders? Will militarisation be ended in communities? Will it end the commercialization and misrepresentation of our culture and identity?
Like the need to read up the proposed amendments to the Constitution, we must do the same with HB 5343. It may be worth sharing that the same contentious provision in HB 4649 providing that the Cordillera autonomous region shall compose of the provinces that vote favorably for it remains in HB 5343. It undermines if not outrightly disrespects the Cordillera people’s toil in achieving the regionalised Cordillera on the basis of our aspiration for self-determination defense of ancestral land, culture and identity. So let us engage in the public consultations, ask our questions and state our views.
Talking about misrepresented and commodified culture and identity, there is a queue of tourists in a booth near Burnham Lake that charges an amount to take one’s photo in Igorot attire. Burnham Park is a popular tourist destination and has great potential as a learning hub to reach out and inform local and foreign visitors on the culture and identity of the Igorot people. So if proper authorities can actually look into this, it can serve as a step towards eliminating discrimination of Igorots and commodification of our culture and identity.
We can do more than just allowing photo booths for souvenirs in Igorot attire. And may I take this a tad further—I believe the value of our traditional attire is beyond that. Beyond festivals, we wear it in dignity and honor—it is our identity. My identity is not for sale. We wear it in struggle—there is no better occasion to assert and be bold in one’s identity when fighting for our self-determination. So do not hesitate. Don your tapis and raise your fist. There are many reasons to take to the streets these days. # nordis.net