By LAYAD EKID
The honorable mayor thinks that the i-Kordilyera are “haan lang nga nengneng, tabbed da pay” if they continue to reject Regional Autonomy. “Imagine 23 years (since the creation of CAR), haan tayo latta nga maawatan ti Regional Autonomy,” he said.
Mayor Mauricio Domogan of Baguio City, chair of the Regional Development Council (RDC) Third Autonomy Act Drafting Committee (TAADC), wants a draft by the end of March this year and said the third plebiscite should be scheduled before the election in 2013.
He said the draft should be given to Congress within 2011 as it might take a year for this body to deliberate on the issue. “No maaramid ti plebisito iti nganngani ti election, mapolitika to manen dayta,” the mayor explained.
The mayor, a member of a government group that immediately did an assessment of why the NO vote prevailed in the March 9, 1998 plebiscite, knows there were several more important reasons aside from the proximity of the plebiscite to the May 1998 national and local elections. These concerns, which point to the need for more consultations and consensus building, remain valid up to now. In fact they surfaced again in the RDC December 2007 autonomy survey and in the consultations conducted by Mountain Province.
In the December 2007 survey, the result showed that people will likely reject a third autonomy act (if the plebiscite was done during the time of the survey) even if 73% are in favor of a Cordillera Administrative Region. One of the reasons for the likely NO vote was the feeling that the region needs gradual preparations towards autonomy which could imply lack of confidence on the capacity of their political leaders.
The survey also revealed that 66 percent of respondents did not understand the content of the previous Organic Acts; 28 percent said they did not believe that the Organic Act or autonomy will improve their lives; 27 percent said there were conflicting messages from different leaders; and 24 percent got confused by the arguments/differing opinions on autonomy.
The report on the recent consultation activities in Mountain Province was correctly summed up by a member of the Provincial Management Task Force (PMTF) on Regional Autonomy consultations. He said there is need for patience in discussing Regional Autonomy because the people have plenty of worries that could not be responded to in just one forum.
How about the leaders? Some governors never attended the TAADC. They sent representatives who did not seem to know what was going on.
In a forum with Cordillera Association of Regional Executives (CARE) on Regional Autonomy, participants from the association could be counted by the fingers. Domogan and other RDC officials could not hold expressing their disappointment.
The church was part of the problem in the government assessment in 1998. In this fresh campaign, the RDC has engaged the bishops of the Baguio-Benguet Diocese and the Abra Diocese. The initial engagement was good, except that there were no sustained follow-up activities.
In Mountain Province, the bishop of the Episcopal Church is a member of the PMTF. But he was accordingly not active during the consultation activities and never did he assign somebody to represent him.
What about leaders in the NGO and PO community? Not the easily coopted ones which do not raise a whimper because while they advocate critical engagement with government the critical is immediately forgotten once they are in.
In one forum, Mayor Domogan asked Manny Loste to bridge TAADC with CPA (Cordillera People’s Alliance). Loste said, “there should be a special forum with the left-of-center group so we would know what is holding them back.”
RDC actually had engaged the CPA. In fact, previous RDC chairman Juan Ngalob spoke in one of the Cordillera Day celebration spearheaded by the group. But the engagement was not also sustained.
Another task force member in Mountain Province came from the left-of- center NGOs. Like the bishop of the Episcopal Church, he was not active in the consultation activities.
These pieces of information indicate reservation despite willingness to come to the table. There must be more bridging work – the Cordillera people need consultations, consultations and consultations. Not a plebiscite that must be done in two years.
Wonder of wonders, the august body that is the RDC, which used to say “slow but sure,” and “all or nothing (meaning aim for YES vote by all the provinces),” does not seem to be debating the proposed Domogan calendar.
What do you call people who do not learn from facts they themselves generate? Listen to how the honorable mayor says it. # nordis.net