Cordillera autonomy movement

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Political map of the Cordillera Administrative Region.

The Cordillera autonomy movement in the Philippines refers to the campaign for greater autonomy for the Cordilleras.

The 1986 Constitution allows for the establishment of two autonomous regions in the country; Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras. Two plebiscites (1990 and 1998) were conducted in the Cordillera to legalize the autonomous status of the area where majority of the voters rejected autonomy. The area is currently under the jurisdiction of the Cordillera Administrative Region.

There are still efforts from some local sectors to establish an autonomous region in the Cordillera.


An old U.S. Army map showing Mountain province covering the present areas of Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Apayao

During the Spanish colonial era, the Spaniards referred to the inhabitants of the Cordilleras as the Ygorrottes or the Igorots while the Americans starting 1908 have governed the area as part of a single locality called as the Mountain Province. People from outside the region, or the lowlanders as they are known in the Cordillera, often referred all ethnic people in the area under the single label, Igorot. Unlike the people in the southern Philippines, the Moro who organized themselves in large polities such as sultanates, the Cordilleran people had independent tribes governed by tribal councils. These are among the facts use to argue for a pan-Cordillera identity.[1]

Cordillera conflict[edit]

There is a movement for self-determination among the people of the Cordilleras in Luzon, however there were no secessionists in the region calling for the independence of the Cordilleras from the Philippines. The armed Cordillera struggle was derived from the CPP-NPA-NDF conflict during the regime of President Ferdinand Marcos. The Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army's goal was to overthrow the Marcos, fight what they perceive as imperialism of the United States, after which they plan to establish a people's democratic republic. The affiliate of the National Democratic Front, the Cordillera People's Democratic Front aimed for the "liberation" of the country along with the Cordilleras from these twin challenges according to its 1981 eight-point general program.[1]

The Cordillera People’s Liberation Army, a group which separated from the NPA in 1986, along with the Montanosa National Solidarity and the Cordillera Bodong Administration fought for greater autonomy in the Cordillera and against what it perceive as internal colonialism by the Philippine central government. The CPLA advocated utilization and stewardship of lands by communes as opposed to private proprietorship and the direct democracy through village assemblies and council of elders. It also promoted the bodong system as a "supra-tribal expression" of the "spirit of social cooperation". They also proposed the conversion of the country into a federal republic as an alternative with each state having co-equal status.[1]

On September 13, 1986 the CPLA and the Government of the Philippines made a "sipat" or cessation of hostilities in Mt. Data Hotel, in Bauko, Mountain Province. The agreement between the two entities were dubbed as the 1986 Mount Data Peace Accord.[2][3] Furthermore, the Manabo pagta or covenant was signed on December 1, 1986 in Manabo, Abra by local tribal elders.[4]

Establishment of the Cordillera Administrative Region[edit]

The Mount Data Peace Accord and the Manabo Pagta lead to the establishment of the Cordillera Administrative Region through the issuance of Executive Order 220 on July 15, 1987 by then President Corazon C. Aquino with the intention of converting the region to an autonomous one.[4] The provinces of Abra, Benguet and Mountain Province (of the Ilocos Region), and Ifugao and Kalinga-Apayao (of the Cagayan Valley) were annexed as part of the newly created region.[5][6]

Several attempts at legalizing autonomy in the Cordillera region have failed in two separate plebiscites.[7][8] An affirmative vote for the law on regional autonomy is a precondition by the 1987 Philippine Constitution to give the region autonomy in self-governance much like the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in southern Philippines. The first law Republic Act No. 6766, took effect on October 23, 1989[9] but failed to muster a majority vote in the plebiscite on January 30, 1990.[7][8] The second law, Republic Act No. 8438 passed by Congress of the Philippines on December 22, 1997,[10] also failed to pass the approval of the Cordillera peoples in a region-wide referendum on March 7, 1998.[7][8] In 2018, referendum and political analysts have stated that "people’s lack of understanding of the autonomy issue, compounded by misinformation drives by some sectors", was the primary factor against Cordillera autonomy.[11]

Continued campaign for Cordillera autonomy[edit]

A closure agreement between the CPLA and the Government of the Philippines was signed on July 4, 2011 at the Rizal Hall in Malacañan Palace. The agreement calls for the disarmament of the group, the reintegration of the militants into mainstream society and the conversion of the militant group into a socio-economic organization.[12] While the group has stopped armed confrontation, the CPLA remain extant as of 2013 still campaigning for greater autonomy in the Cordilleras with about 1,000 members.[13]

There are efforts to make a third bid to legalize autonomy in the Cordillera. Bills to establish an Organic Act for an autonomous region in Cordillera was filed; House Bill No. 5595 filed during the 15th Congress and House Bill No. 4649 in 2014 during the 16th Congress both of which failed to pass.[14] The latest attempt is House Bill No. 5343, "An Act Establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC)" which was filed on March 20, 2017 during the First Regular Session of the 17th Congress.[15] The latest bill is supported by all House representatives from the Cordilleras.[11][16][17][18] Additionally, for the first time in history, all provincial and city governments throughout the Cordilleras also support Cordilleran autonomy.[19][20]

A declaration to expressed support for the establishment of the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC) as part of the President Rodrigo Duterte-led process of shifting the form of governance of the Philippines to federalism from the presidential setup to federalism was signed on April 24, 2017 by about 200 local officials, tribal leaders, and civil society organizations at Mount Datu. There has also been a campaign to include Nueva Vizcaya into the Cordilleras as the province is culturally and geographically part of the Cordilleras and not the Cagayan Valley.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Ferrer, Miriam Coronel (2005). "The Moro and Cordillera conflicts in the Philippines". Ethnic Conflicts in Southeast Asia. By Snitwongse, Kusuma; Thompson, Willard Scott (Reprint ed.). Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. pp. 122–124. ISBN 9812303375. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  2. ^ Virgilio M Gaje (2012-02-01). "[PIA News] CPLA commemorates Mount Data peace accord". Retrieved 2013-09-04.
  3. ^ "Historical Background of Cordillera's Pursuit for Regional Development and Autonomy". 1991-03-01. Archived from the original on 2013-07-17. Retrieved 2013-09-04.
  4. ^ a b Bitog, Rubyloida (21 April 2013). "Elders unite Bodong factions". Sun Star Baguio. Archived from the original on 6 October 2017. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  5. ^ "Regional Profile: Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR)". CountrySTAT Philippines. Archived from the original on 22 October 2014. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  6. ^ "The Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR)". Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  7. ^ a b c Ferrer, Miriam Coronel (4 September 2010). "Cordillera autonomy - Miriam Coronel Ferrer". ABS-CBN News. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  8. ^ a b c "Cordillera Autonomy". Scribd Inc. Dona Dee Lacdao. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  9. ^ "R.A. No. 6766: An Act Providing for an Organic Act for the Cordillera Autonomous Region". The LawPhil Project. Congress of the Philippines. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  10. ^ "R.A. No. 8438: An Act to Establish the Cordillera Autonomous Region". The LawPhil Project. Congress of the Philippines. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^ Sinapit, Jaime (2011-07-04). "CPLA disarms for good, inks final pact with Aquino administration". Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2013-09-04.
  13. ^ Dumlao, Artemio (31 January 2013). "Rebels still dream of Cordillera's autonomy". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 3 October 2017.
  14. ^ Cayabyab, Marc Jayson (22 September 2014). "Cordillera lawmakers revive autonomy bid". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  15. ^ Ponciano, Mark Allen (24 March 2017). "Cordi autonomy bill filed as HB 5343". National Economic and Development Authority - Cordillera Administrative Region. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  16. ^
  17. ^ Cawis, Redjie Melvic (22 August 2018). "Cordillera's quest for self-governance gets more support". Philippine Information Agency. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ Adattu, Ian Jeffrey. "Cordillera autonomy gains support from civil society". Sun Star Baguio. Retrieved 6 October 2017.