Autonomy movement revived in Cordillera

By Artemio Dumlao, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 11 2014 02:04 AM | Updated as of Feb 11 2014 10:04 AM

BAGUIO CITY – People of the Cordilleras have launched a movement to seek autonomy for the region.

Volunteers and well-meaning citizens and “original” Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) members launched the AMIN-TACO (Autonomy in the Administrative Cordillera Movement), meaning “all of us” in the Kankanaey language in Apayao, to generate once again the interest of tribal peoples for autonomy.

Benedict Ballug, AMIN-TACO convenor, said the Constitution gives the legal basis for their dream of autonomy and self-determination.

AMIN-TACO shall prepare a “tribal version” of the Organic Act derived from the masses in the tribal communities throughout the Cordilleras, he added.

Melchor Balance of the Maeng tribe has led a group to jump-start an “autonomy caravan” in Apayao to re-ignite the interest of Cordillerans to “the long-sought dream” of self-governance.

Going around provinces, meeting the grassroots, the movement for autonomy will grow because Cordillerans, especially the “binodngans” (tribal peoples), want it to happen, he added.

Last week, the autonomy caravan gained stride in Apayao as Santa Marcela town mayor Rolando Guiang, barangay chairmen and members of the Federation of Tribal Elders of Apayao headed by Elorde Anniban vowed support.

A citizen’s initiative springing from the grassroots, the movement is far different from the national government’s tack on autonomy, which has “credibility questions.”

Igorot leader Alfonso Magannon, Cordillera Bodong Administration president-designate, is optimistic that the tribal version of the Organic Act will convince the tribal people to once again agree to forward the cause for autonomy.

Ballug said the Organic Act to establish Cordillera autonomy must be derived directly from the people and the tribes to guarantee resounding approval.

Cordillerans have twice rejected organic acts via plebiscites in 1993 and 1998.

Ballug said a third attempt of local governments and political leaders will only suffer the same fate “because it pre-supposed the role of politicians in a supposedly tribal environment.”

The organic acts (Republic Acts 6477 and 8438) were “rejected due to lack of understanding and appreciation of what autonomy was all about.”

The autonomy caravan might do the trick because the people’s sentiment will be gathered, Ballug and Balance said.

After Apayao, the autonomy caravan will go to Kalinga and so on to continue the “painstaking” quest, Balance added.