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CPA Statement on OPAPP’s Attempt to Create a Cordillera People’s Autonomy Bill

November 6, 2017

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) reiterates its position on Genuine Regional Autonomy (GRA) in light of a new initiative by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) to come up with a Cordillera People’s Autonomy Bill through provincial and regional assemblies from November 7-9 and 12-14, respectively.

GRA has long been an aspiration of the Cordillera peoples’ movement. It is not merely about structures, positions and funds but is about principle, substance and process of regional autonomy as the appropriate application of the right to self-determination in the Cordillera, to freely freely determine our own political status and freely pursue our economic, social and cultural development. GRA means the recognition of the Cordillera peoples’ distinct identity as diverse but one people, self-government of the Cordillera people, equality of the Cordillera people with the wider Filipino people, unity with the rest of the Filipino in recognition that this can only be realized within a framework of a truly democratic and sovereign Philippine republic.

In the past, the urgent demand for Cordillera regionalization was advocated by the militant mass movement led by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance through sustained popular campaigns such as the Regionalization and Beyond campaign from 1984 to 1986, to Regional Autonomy and Genuine Regional Autonomy campaigns in the years that followed. The regionalization of the Cordillera provinces was a popular demand that had the active participation and support of a broad section of Cordillera society. CPA has been pursuing regional autonomy comprehensively and qualifies its pursuit as Genuine Regional Autonomy (GRA) to differentiate it from the government’s pursuit of bogus regional autonomy.

Traditional politicians have long coopted the idea of Regional Autonomy and attempted to pass Organic Acts, which were overwhelmingly rejected in the 1990 and 1998 plebiscites. On the current fourth attempt at passing an Organic Act, the Regional Development Council and Cordillera congressmen are aggressively pushing for the passage of House Bill 5343, after the third House Bill 4649 failed to pass during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

The rejection of the first and second proposed Organic Acts before and now the low level of response on House Bill 5343 are because these espouse bogus regional autonomy. It is bogus since it does not address the problem of national oppression of indigenous peoples, development aggression, land grabbing and plunder of ancestral lands and resources; is divisive instead of uniting the Cordillera people; and would only serve the present unjust system of the ruling class and their foreign masters.

At present, there is no popular clamor for Regional Autonomy, except by the proponents and some supporters of House Bill 5343. Yet now even the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process is initiating another process of creating a Cordillera People’s Autonomy Bill. This only shows the disunity and insincerity of the government in realizing the Cordillera peoples’ aspiration for Genuine Regional Autonomy.

The OPAPP’s proposed Bill will essentially be no different from House Bill 5343 and previous proposed Organic Acts (bogus regional autonomy). Worse, its process is dictated, undemocratic, time-bound and rushed. A limited number of participants for its provincial and regional assemblies are already pre-determined and handpicked by OPAPP and its implementing partners. It has a closed and tight time frame for the simultaneous provincial assemblies on November 7-9 and so-called Regional Legislative Assembly on November 12-14. There is also lack of wide public information on the initiative and specific invitations were too short-noticed.

CPA will not participate in the OPAPP-initiated process, which is another bogus regional autonomy initiative. The people cannot participate in such a dictated, time constrained, and undemocratic process. OPAPP’s proposed Cordillera People’s Autonomy Bill is an act of deception and a mockery of our aspiration to self determination and genuine recognition of our ancestral land rights.

There are more urgent issues in the region and the country that OPAPP and the government should address and prioritize instead of spending resources on yet another process that is not the primary demand of Cordillera indigenous peoples at present. The Duterte government should instead gear its efforts and people’s resources against the worsening economic crisis, soaring inflation and widespread poverty, landlessness and unemployment; stop the TRAIN law, labor contractualization and neoliberal policies; stop the bombings and militarization of indigenous communities, extrajudicial killings, filing of trump-up charges, political vilification and state terrorism; and stop martial law and dictatorship. For genuine regional autonomy is not possible under this set-up.

The material base of our collective right to self determination and regional autonomy, identity and culture is our ancestral land. If these are grabbed, destroyed and plundered, what “regional autonomy” are we talking about? The plunder of ancestral lands and the resources therein (on top of large-scale mining operations are 102 mining applications, at least 87 hydropower projects and 5 geothermal power projects) must first be stopped, and the national oppression of indigenous peoples and the fundamental problems faced by the Filipino people must be seriously addressed. Only then can we move towards achieve genuine regional autonomy.

OPAPP’s bogus autonomy will be no different from the Duterte regime’s deceptive Charter Change and Federalism proposal, which will further worsen the national oppression of indigenous peoples. CPA and the Cordillera mass movement will oppose any attempt at bogus regional autonomy and Duterte’s Charter Change under the guise of federalism, which will further worsen tyranny, foreign control of Philippine economy and surrender of national sovereignty, violations of human rights and indigenous peoples’ rights, and national oppression.

Thus, we urge groups and individuals participating in OPAPP’s bogus regional autonomy process to rethink and not legitimize this undemocratic and divisive initiative.

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance pursues Genuine Regional Autonomy by asserting Cordillera indigenous peoples’ collective rights to self-determination; and cumulatively build levels of self-determination through grassroots capacity building. This is done simultaneously with addressing the burning issues of destructive projects like mining and energy (dams and geothermal), militarization and human rights violations. It is a combination of building long term capacity for self-determination and regional autonomy while also dealing with immediate concerns. This has been the core of CPA’s work for the past 3 decades and continuing, which we urge the government and various groups to support.***

Attached: Substance and Features of Genuine Regional Autonomy (You may also share and download using this link: https://www.scribd.com/document/370144767/Substance-and-Features-of-Genuine-Regional-Autonomy)

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