By Artemio A. Dumlao
This even as Cordillera political leaders, most already jumped ship to the ruling Liberal Party, are gearing for an autonomous region, according to the Regional Development Council with “four provinces already saying yes to autonomy”.
But Ifugao rep. Teodoro Baguilat Jr., an original LP member and regional coordinator-designate of the party who expected Pres. Aquino III to announce Malacanang’s stance on autonomy Monday during the mass oath taking at the Benguet State University of 400 new LP members said, the President is still studying options. He said, “it depends on what the Cordillerans want,” Baguilat Jr. quoted the President as telling him before Aquino II addressed the LP gathering.
Interpreting it, the Ifugao rep. said, “I think the President needs more proof that we are united for autonomy.”
This as Benguet rep. Ronald Cosalan who wrote Congress on his opposition to the Third Organic Act being crafted said, “I presume it (autonomy) is not one of his priorities.”
Though Benguet governor Nestor Fongwan, a new member of the LP said, “we will push through.”
While Kalinga governor Jocel Baac, also a new member of the LP said, “maybe the President was not informed of the true sentiments of the Cordillerans.”
Baac heads the Regional Development Council leading the information and dissemination campaign for the region’s third bid for self-government. “It is imperative for us to show our unity. It is imperative for the leadership of the LP to do something on this,” the governor said.
Mt. Province congressman Maximo Dalog, also a new member of the LP said, “maybe it is a sign that at this time the President is still considering it.”
But Rep. Baguilat Jr. who thinks grassroots sentiments, not only political leaders, must be gathered via a survey to know what Cordillerans know and feel. It maybe that governors and congressmen want it, but when referendum comes, the Organic Act is turned down, he said.
Already, a survey is being undertaken by the RDC, said RDC-Cordillera co-chairman Virgilio Bautista, confirming, the long-sought proposal for a bottoms-up approach seemed was disregarded still with the third bid for an autonomous region.
So far, Bautista of the RDC said, an initial unstructured sampling show “that some Cordillerans have awareness but not on details of the Organic Act pending in Congress.” This is the new advocacy to inform the public, he added.
“We need to have the survey on perception of the people now,” Rep. Baguilat Jr. said. Surveys per province are crucial, the Ifugao solon, who chairs the House committee on National Cultural Communities said. “Whether all provinces will go for autonomy, I don’t know.”
Cordillerans are wise voters, Baguilat Jr. said. ‘So it must not be leadership-based, what is important is to bring down the information campaign among farmers, gardeners, tribal leaders, for voters asking if it will help in their lives.”
Baguilat Jr. said he doesn’t want to see a 3 or 4 province-autonomous region.