Autonomously yours

>> Monday, December 6, 2010

March Fianza

BAGUIO CITY -- Autonomy is often defined as “self-rule” or the “power to make one’s own decisions.” However, some sectors have automatically equated that to mean “decision-making by one,” which to me should not be.

Meanwhile, others have associated the clamor for regional autonomy with the personal interests of individuals, particularly politicians.

If this is the case, then all the more that there is need to consult all who come to be consulted and want to say their piece, including those who feel they are being left out in the consultation process.
In the Cordillera, provincial leaders, particularly governors, who were asked questions on autonomy and things related to it, gave initial answers, some of which I am trying to recall.

In the regional development council press conference held in Apayao last year, Gov. Elias K. Bulut said that attaining regional autonomy will depend on the organic act.

“If it only provides concerns for Baguio, Benguet, Bontoc … we will not approve it,” he said. Development should not be concentrated in Baguio alone. “Baguio is not the whole Cordillera” he further said.

His statements came in the wake of several infrastructure programs his province was undertaking with the use of provincial funds, while other provinces were sourcing out development funds from the national government through the agencies.

“Apayao is only 14 years old but it is blooming…It is the people (Apayao) who should tell you (media) if there are changes and developments that happened in 14 years,” Bulut told newsmen during the province’s 14th founding anniversary.

In simple terms, Gov. Bulut was saying that even without help from outside, Apayao has been undergoing positive changes for the past years. Similarly, Benguet Governor Nestor B. Fongwan said the same thing in relation to regional autonomy.

If I can recall, Gov. Fongwan said in the Bontoc RDC meeting that he is in favor of autonomy but government must first develop the provinces in the region – not the other way around which is “regional autonomy before development.”

But Director Juan Ngalob of NEDA said during a meeting at city hall last week that the Cordillera Administrative Region is in reality existing as a regular region

What Gov. Fongwan said about regional autonomy also makes sense considering that even after two autonomy plebiscites that failed, provinces in the Cordillera “administrative” region continued to grow. Although, RDC members Ngalob and Dr. Gil Bautista, private sector rep (PSR) said “don’t we want more?”

In Mt. Province, Abra, Kalinga and Ifugao, local leaders have expressed willingness to support the clamor for autonomy with particular reservations. The more ticklish issue of which are that certain provinces do not want others to be lording over matters of personal concern.

Point well taken, Baguio mayor Morris Domogan said the LGUs in the provinces and municipalities and the private sector will be very independent in coming up with provisions that they want included in the draft organic act. “Nobody should pre-empt their suggestions,” he said.
It cannot also be hidden in the process that some sectors have already equated the quest for regional autonomy with the personal interest of politicians who may someday want to be regional governor.

But again, PSR Dr. Bautista clarified that the RDC has stopped calling the committee headed by Mayor Domogan that tasked to collate the autonomy draft as the “Domogan committee.” It is now called the “Third Autonomy Draft Committee” or TADC.

I just hope no one with his foolish mind will come out and say that TADC means “Third Autonomy Domogan Committee.” The clamor for regional autonomy failed in two plebiscites, but talking to the mayor, I feel that he is sincere in his words even if some sectors look at his intentions differently.

In one of the media meetings on the issue, it was asked why government and politicians are leading in the process. I understand why the question was asked. For all we know the reason why the plebiscites failed was because of the presence of politicians. And with that, Lawyer Pablito Sanidad asked “doesn’t that tell us something?”

In Benguet, Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan told media that there must be warm bodies in the conduct of consultations – not just one or two influential individuals representing a whole group, which brings us to a point that the CAR bodies constituted during President Cory’s time may no longer be re-installed and officially take part in the autonomy consultations.

Rep. Cosalan has been consistent in saying that the CAR bodies had nothing to show except to meddle in local LGU affairs, and after drawing salaries for many years. Mayor Domogan said the authority of the RDC to conduct consultations has always been questioned even as he admitted that any group from the private sector can consult the public on its own and submit a draft in congress.

“But, it will still be congress that will pass the autonomy bill,” he said as he further pointed to the practicality of holding preliminary exploratory talks with the Cordillera congressmen because ultimately they will be the ones who will approve the final draft.

He also clarified that the Cordillera bodies may no longer be re-installed after congress diminished their functions by allotting them a one-peso budget. That is another story for next week. “What is clear is that we are all for autonomy, although we have different styles in the way we consult and inform people,” Domogan said. –


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