Editorial: The Cordillera Autonomous Region

The Cordillera Unity Gong arrived from the province of Abra yesterday culminating its relay this year at the Benguet Capitol. The Unity Gong was relayed from one province to the other to symbolize the unity of six provinces comprising the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR). It arrives in time for the commemoration of the day Cory signed Executive Order 220 creating the autonomous region or CAR. As the order states;

“WHEREAS, pursuant to Section 1, Article X of the 1987 Constitution, there shall be created an autonomous region in the Cordilleras..”

The EO also tries to recognize that the pursuit of regional autonomy has a historical basis and has grown into a wider Cordillera people’s movement. But it seems to fear to articulate that regional autonomy is the indigenous peoples’ aspiration for self-governance, and the campaign for regional autonomy is led by the alliance of Cordillera People’s organizations before there ever was a CPLA (April 1986), as it suggests in the following section:

“WHEREAS, the constitutional mandate for the creation of an autonomous region in the Cordilleras has been preceded by the movement for local autonomy and administrative decentralization before and since the period of authoritarian rule (September 1972-February 1986), as manifested by the work of the 1971 Constitutional Convention, the 1976 resolution of governors and other leaders from the Cordilleras, and finally the regional autonomy representations at the 1986 Constitutional Commission.”

Yet, why should the signing of an EO like this be commemorated when there has been no real intention for it to genuinely serve the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera or pave the way to attain the people’s aspiration for self-governance? And instead has sparked divisiveness in the ranks of the intelligentsia.

As so often pointed out, “The essence of regional autonomy is self-governance for indigenous peoples culturally, politically, socially in a pace that they define, without external imposition. It should address the systematic violation of indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and ancestral land rights by the State, ruling few and big businesses, as manifested in the violation of indigenous peoples’ prior rights to ancestral lands, through land grabbing, oppressive laws and extractive projects; political misrepresentation and the non-recognition of indigenous socio-political institutions and processes, commercialization and vulgarization of indigenous cultures, historical government neglect and institutionalised discrimination.”

“Regional autonomy is the recognition and respect of the Cordillera Peoples Ancestral land Rights and the Cordillera Ancestral Domain. Recognition of the Cordillera people’s ancestral proprietary rights to the disposition, utilization, management and development of the land and resources. Recognition of the right to economic prosperity and genuine social development. Respect for the indigenous culture and the right to pursue cultural development. Recognition of indigenous socio – political systems and political integrity as distinct peoples. Protection of people’s rights and civil liberties from militarization and state repression. And,

The institutional rectification of national oppression through legislation and policies, curriculum on indigenous peoples education, and values formation on equality and none discrimination.” (All That Fits July 01, 2018)

The proposed bill for an organic act for the Cordillera pending in the house of representatives does not represent these people’s true aspirations for genuine regional autonomy as above stated. It is and people know it by now that attaining our aspirations as a people is in unity and hard struggle; guided by our indigenous values and discipline to contribute asserting the collective right to self-determination and attaining genuine autonomy in the Cordillera and in the country. May the Igorot and friends always stand strong against tyranny, make a stand for democracy.#nordis.net

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