Thoughts From Dhaka: Concretizing Autonomy

By Gina Dizon

DAKKA, Bangladesh — The results of the survey on Cordillera autonomy just says one thing: What is autonomy? It is strange that 40 percent of Cordillera respondents don’t know what autonomy is.

With 60% of respondents categorically answering Yes (27.9%) or No (34.6%) to the question of the readiness of the Cordillera to become autonomous, it implies they are informed or assertive on their categorical responses. Whatever arguments they have, they can neutralize or persuade others to their sides – those who do not know or are still undecided whether or not to go for autonomy.

Obviously, saying Yes is a move which could be termed as daring or risky. If not now, then when? is the question for the Yes mover. A sound and feasible rationale based on concrete potentials needs to be presented to the public — what regional autonomy means other than a Yes vote. It is a question on how firm is this position with regards to financial and administrative capacity of the Cordillera to go into autonomy. It basically asks how politically relevant is the move to push for regional autonomy.

The No position obviously implies a cautious step in going for an uncertain administrative or political set-up for the Cordillera which could be categorical or conservative. Why go into a set up when there is already an administrative and political structure in place?

An unsure and shaky setup on how financially and administratively capable the envisioned administration will be is one major consideration in taking a No position, apparently. And as said earlier, what is the importance of going into this political exercise considering national laws and policies which may contradict what regional autonomy means in its genuine meaning?

Preparations for an autonomous regional state is based on what Executive Order 220 provides. With this, one question is how politically objective administrative systems will be in place with Cordillera autonomy.

Many lessons need to be learned from the the setting up and operations of the flawed Cordillera Executive Board before going into an autonomous set-up. From here, we could understand the position of those who took No as their answer.

While Yes presents itself as an aggressive stance, caution and careful study still needs to be done on how to approach a seemingly highly politicized administrative autonomy for the Cordillera.

For the Yes movers, it would be good to ask why the need for Cordillera autonomy. What pressing issues are there at the moment that autonomy could solve for the Cordillera? How receptive are people on political and economic issues which affect their lives?

It is from a politicized mind that a resounding Yes will be generated from the populace. From the results of the survey however, extensive and intensive political work still needs to be done on the ground level. A half-baked autonomy cannot be rammed down the throats of the people who still have doubts and questions un-answered on the matter. A mere 27.9 percent who answered Yes is an isolated scenario.

Going into apparently, a forced movement with no visible and felt reason for such a movement at this time would be a futile exercise. Groundwork for a political atmosphere to set the motion into a strong movement for autonomy needs to be done.

It is the job of those who are voting for Yes to galvanize a conducive political atmosphere and work fon pressing issues which need to be highlighted in order to create the atmosphere for a Yes vote. And this needs time and work.

Issues on economic unrest and development are classic examples in setting up a political movement, that is, the autonomy movement to get going. Add to this Baguio Rep. Mauricio Domogan’s bill on direct appropriation of taxes by local government units from corporations operating in respective LGU territories, including pressing issues against corruption and the autonomy move may go an inch further. Perhaps, the Yes votes will increase as No advocates will be persuaded to vote Yes.

In much the same way, those who voted for No should state their reasons for saying so and come up with sound and viable answers why No is the better option. Perhaps the present setup is fine and going for another administrative political set up would be a frustrating exercise. Is autonomy relevant and feasible at all for the Cordillera?

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