Cordillera Autonomy

One thing about watching the TV evening news is that you get bolted out of your respite from intellectual processes. History is unfurling. Dreams are being aired, and being shot down on air. And you just have to proclaim your take. Last night, I learned that discussions on Cordillera autonomy will be revived in Congress. This is in time for the commemoration of the Mt. Data Peace Pact between renegade priest Fr. Conrado Balweg and Pres. Corazon Aquino in the late 1980's.

 I do not know if the public has recovered from fatigue after two failed attempts at the establishment of a Cordillera Autonomous Region. I was a Director of the Cordillera Executive Board, the body created under Executive Order No. 220 to prepare the Cordillera Region for autonomy (Would you believe I was in my early 20's when I got the appointment? I was so eager to do something really huge. Before my appointment, I was already aware of the defects of the bureaucratic apparatuses. I thought I was ready to deal with them. Gosh, the defects were endemic, as they are now. No wonder people with vision and the heart for substantive change leave the bureaucracy frustrated.

Anyway, I saw how the last autonomy bill was crafted. Let me explain the rejection of the last autonomy law this way: The people will resist what they do not identify with. They will all the more resist what goes against their value system. That rejected law, which suffered the fate of an earlier one in 1990, did not really foster autonomy. It provided that all decisions on the control of the region's wealth will be left to the Autonomous Region. This would have been fine, if not for the provision subly smuggled within the written rhetoric that regional laws must not contravene national laws.

Very clever national government! What it professed to give with the right hand, it actually intended to revoke with the left. But we have a more clever people: they hurled the law fast into the trash bin where it properly belonged. Amen! Did those people up there not realize that what has always impelled us to assert our autonomy is the inherent clash between national laws and indigenous laws?

Autonomy must be framed within the right of self-determination enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It is not granted; it is asserted. The United Nation recognizes the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination as an inalienable collective right. The initiative should come from the people and not dictated by the national government.

 If we allow the national government to run the show, we will have a token autonomous region. We ourselves will have authored the rape of our collective right. We are for the establishment of an autonomous region, one that will allow the Cordillera IP's to chart their own destiny and wrest control over the natural resources Kabunian intended for them and their descendants. For this, we are ready to reject an Establishment-sponsored "autonomy" law.

 By the way, here is a piece I wrote way back:

Macliing Dulag’s Warding-Off Speech

If Kabunian gave you a land
 of milk and honey
 and ordered you 
to take care of it for posterity
 What will you do 
if intruders want to take it away? 
 I imagine that you will fight
 For they who do not are ungrateful to Kabunian;
 they value not His gift 
 They ignore his command
 to defend the land in the name 
of coming generations thousands of years from now 

They who do not, spit on the graves 
of  their ancestors
 who preserved the land for them
 For land is life 
For life is the land

 If you were in our place 
You would fight 
You would fire your guns as we raise our spears 
You would probably pay your way 
to the justice system t
hat does not understand our ways 

For that is what you did
 to grab the lands of people 
Like us on the other side of the mountain 

So do not be stubborn in your ignorance
Why we refuse to vacate the land
 which had always been our home

We are the Palestinians in Palestine
 The Lumads in Mindanao 
The Mangyans in Mindoro

 We are the Martians in Mars
 Go away.
 Let our people sleep in peace

And the night after.
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