By Manny Piñol
Baguio City – The tough talk and invectives spewed out by the colorful and controversial Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte may have shocked the gentle Cordillerans but his spirited advocacy for Federalism and his renowned decisiveness impressed the leaders of Baguio City and Benguet.
“Talagang decisive sya. Gusto nya ng change,” said Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan in an interview with TV5 following a forum on Federalism attended by business, civic and several political leaders of the city at the Crown Legacy Hotel here Thursday night.
Domogan, the undefeated Igorot Mayor of Baguio who also served as Congressman for nine years, also expressed support for the advocacy of the Davao City Mayor for a shift from a Presidential Unitary System to Federal Parliamentary which would result in the establishment of at least 14 Federal States all over the country.
The Baguio City Mayor has also long advocated for a greater autonomy for the Cordillera which is provided in the 1987 Constitution but has not been realized after the move lost in two plebiscites conducted in the Mountain Region.
Domogan and the other leaders of the Cordillera are pushing for the passage of a 4th Draft Bill to pass an enabling law to implement autonomy in the region.
“Autonomy is the key to economic progress of our region; it is the future of the Cordillera,” Domogan told members of the Philippine Councilors League-Cordillera during a three-day conference on self-rule last year.
Domogan and his group were actually closely watching the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, a move to create an expanded and unique autonomous government in Mindanao, as a model for the Cordillera Autonomous Region.
The BBL now faces the grim prospect of being thrashed by both Congress and the Senate following the Mamasapano, Maguindanao carnage where 44 Special Action Force police commandos and reportedly 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were killed in a day-long battle resulting from the operation to capture Malaysian international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan.
Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwan, who earlier met with Mayor Duterte at the Baguio Country Club, also expressed strong support for Federalism saying that his province has not earned its rightful share from the exploitation of its natural wealth.
Fongwan, another undefeated Igorot leader who was mayor of La Trinidad, Benguet, cited the mining operations in his province which has been going on for over 100 years and the hydro power facilities like the Binga and Ambuklao and the use of its water for the San Roque Hydro Power Dam in Pangasinan.
“We only get a pittance of what we are supposed to get. In fact, the mining companies extracting our minerals pay the bigger part of their taxes in Makati where their head offices are located,” Fongwan said.
Duterte started his “Listening Tour” in Baguio City on Feb. 19 with the Forum on Federalism with businessmen and local officials followed by a meeting with Rotarians in the Cordillera and Central Luzon.
Yesterday, Duterte met with representatives of the different sectors at the Baguio Convention Center and later joined at least groups of graduates of the Philippine Military Academy in their reunion also at the Crown Legacy Hotel.
The two-day “Listening Tour” in Baguio not only gave the people of the city an insight into the Federalism advocacy of Mayor Duterte, it also allowed them to take a close look at a controversial local leader who is now touted to be a Presidential contender.
“I like his candidness,” said one Rotarian who admitted that he and the others were initially shocked by the colorful and sometimes vulgar words which pepper Duterte’s speeches.
Duterte and his group depart from Baguio City to attend the founding anniversary of the PDP-Laban, a political party which is pushing Duterte for the Presidency, in Intramuros, Manila today.
On Monday, Duterte’s “Listening Tour” will bring him to Angeles City, Pampanga for a meeting with the faculty and students of the Angeles University and a forum with businessmen and investors in the Clark and Subic areas.
(Photo show Mayor Duterte with Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan and Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan in his tribal attire. Mayor Domogan’s photo was downloaded from his Facebook page.)