Press Release
March 16, 2018

University of the Cordilleras, Baguio City
16 March 2018

Naimbag nga bigat kadakayo amin! (Maganda umaga sa inyong lahat!)

Thank you, Baguio and Benguet. Despite the cold weather here, your warm welcome is much appreciated.

We are here to conduct the ninth Senate hearing on Charter change, and the fourth outside Metro Manila. We have been to Cebu, Cotobato, Cagayan de Oro, of course, Manila and now, we are here in Baguio.

We will discuss today an issue very close to you, because it is related, as your Mayor said earlier, to the fate of the region and its people -- Charter change.

We will ask the same questions we have asked all our resource persons in all our other public hearings primarily because we want to hear you, we want to listen to your sentiments, we want to hear what Baguio and Benguet would like to say:

Una: Kailangan nga bang amyendahan o baguhin ang 1987 Constitution? Do we need to amend or change the Constitution?

Ikalawa: Kung kailangan, ano ang mga dapat baguhin sa ating Saligang Batas at bakit?

Ikatlo: Sino ang mag-a-amyenda ng Saligang Batas? Ang mga congressmen at senador ba sa pamamagitan ng constituent assembly (con-ass)? O mga ihahalal na delegado sa isang constitutional convention (con-con)?

Ikaapat: Kung con-ass ang magaganap, boboto ba ang Senado at ang House of Representatives nang jointly, o iisa? O separately o hiwalay?

We also recognize that the backdrop of the Charter change push is the continuing quest for Cordillera autonomy, borne out of years of oppression and exploitation of our people here.

The concept of a regional autonomous region was formalized in Article X, Section 15 of our 1987 Constitution:

"There shall be created autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordillera, [consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities, and geographical areas sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and other relevant characteristics within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.]"

But since the ratification of the Constitution, there have been two failed attempts at getting Cordillerans to approve autonomy.

However, we believe it is not entirely correct to say that the Cordillerans do not want autonomy simply because they have rejected the autonomy laws and plebiscites in 1990 and 1998.

Now might be the perfect time to open discussions anew about autonomy in relation to the planned Constitutional Amendments

Are we ready for autonomy? Is this something we want? Can autonomy exist with federalism?

How about a federal state as envisioned in the revised Constitution? Can CAR stand as one federal state? Is the region capable financially and administratively to be transformed into a federal state? What will it take for CAR to stand on its own as a federal state?

If we amend the Constitution, what should be the structure of government be like? Shall it remain presidential, parliamentary, Unicameral, bicameral, federal or otherwise?

Should there be term limits for officials? Should the new Charter include a provision on banning political dynasty?

How will the wealth sharing under federalism be effective? How can it help alleviate poverty? Will it be able to help provide basic food and non-food needs? Will it provide jobs and higher take-home pays?

Will it be able to help eradicate the long-time problem of corruption? Do we need federalism to end poverty and inequality in the country?

These are all the questions that we hope to answer today, but at least listen to you today, but we are focus on the needs of northern Luzon. We hope to listen to all voices, all sectors, all genders, all ages, as the involvement of the people is the essence of a democracy. And the most important voices we would be listening to you, here today, the people of the Cordilleras, the people of Baguio.

As we take this path, we hope to continue to pursue the vision of the Cordillera and Baguio people for ancestral domain and self-determination.

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