The Regional Development Council (RDC)-initiated grassroots information drive to determine the contents of a third Organic Act for a Cordillera Autonomous Region was welcomed by a militant indigenous alliance here. The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), however, doubts whether a people-based and -inspired autonomy will be achieved, with the people’s rejections of the past two Organic Acts and with an administration criticized as having the worst violations of indigenous peoples’ rights.
BY ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 25, July 29-Aug 4, 2007
BAGUIO CITY – The Regional Development Council (RDC)-initiated grassroots information drive to determine the contents of another Organic Act for a Cordillera Autonomous Region was welcomed by a militant indigenous alliance here. The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), however, doubts whether a people-based and -inspired autonomy will be achieved, with the people’s rejections of the past two Organic Acts and with an administration criticized as having the worst violations of indigenous peoples’ rights.
Nordis learned that the first Organic Act for Cordillera Regional Autonomy was rejected in a plebiscite on Jan. 30, 1990 by all the Cordillera provinces except Apayao; while the second Organic Act was rejected on March 7, 1998 by all provinces except Ifugao.
CPA secretary-general Windell Bolinget suggested that the P30-million fund to be used get the “pulse” of the masses on what should be contained in a third Organic Act for a Cordillera Autonomous Region instead be channeled to social services which are needed most by the villagers.
Established in 1984, the CPA is the oldest regional federation of community organizations in the region.
“While we welcome this move to get the people’s side on what is to be contained in an organic act, these people are under intense militarization to pave the way for the exploitation of the region’s resources,” said Bolinget.
Bolinget added that 1.2 million hectares of the region’s 1.8 million-hectare land area are covered by applications of mining corporations, mostly foreign, for exploration and operation permits.
Indigenous leaders in the Cordillera who led opposition against these mining activities, including Markus “Makoy” Bangit and Dr. Alyce Claver, had been extra-judicially killed allegedly by state agents, said Bolinget. “How can they achieve substantial input from the people with such kind of situation?” Bolinget added.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in the Cordillera announced that half of the 30-million budget for the information drive will be released this year, while the other half will be released next year.
According to government sources reached by Nordis, the RDC requested the Office of the President for a P35-million budget, but only P30 million was approved.
The budget will fund the RDC-initiated consultation to determine the contents of the proposed third Organic Act.
Quest for real autonomy
Bolinget clarified however that the rejection of the Organic Acts initiated by the state is not tantamount to the rejection of autonomy.
The essence of autonomy, he said, is that the indigenous peoples are able to freely determine their political status and pursue their own path for economic and socio-cultural development.
“The GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration’s come-on for mining and other (forms of) exploitation of the region’s resources is in fact a violation of our right to self-determination,” Bolinget said as he pointed out that that they will heighten their pursuit for autonomy aspirations through community organizing and mobilization.
Meanwhile, Bolinget said that they will state a protest against state atrocities on Aug. 9, a day declared by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly as International Day for Indigenous Peoples.
August 9 was declared International Day for Indigenous Peoples in 1983, when the UN-created Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP) had their first meeting. Northern Dispatch / Posted by(Bulatlat.com)