Postponing Elections in ARMM, A Political Payback Says Election Watchdog

Reportedly, there are a number of individuals allied with Malacañang lobbying to be appointed as officers-in-charge (OICs) for ARMM. Among those alleged to be aspiring for an appointment are losing Basilan gubernatorial candidate, former Anak Mindanao Rep. Mujiv Hataman, Akbayan head Ronald Llamas and Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Teresita Deles.


Residents of Basilan and members of various people’s organizations allied with the electoral reform alliance Healing Democracy in Zamboanga have registered their strong opposition against proposals to postpone the elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) from August 8, 2011 to May 2013. They said that calls for the postponement were all about political payback. The group slammed the postponement proposal embodied in HB 4146 filed by Maguindanao First District Representative Bai Sandra A. Sema.

Reportedly, there are a number of individuals allied with Malacañang lobbying to be appointed as officers-in-charge (OICs) for ARMM. Among those alleged to be aspiring for an appointment are losing Basilan gubernatorial candidate, former Anak Mindanao Rep. Mujiv Hataman, Akbayan head Ronald Llamas and Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Teresita Deles.

Akbayan party-list Rep. Arlene Bag-ao, has also filed a bill stating that the ARMM elections should be held simultaneously with the mid-term elections in 2013. The Akbayan party list is headed by Aquino’s political adviser Llamas.

If the polls push through, open for election are positions for regional governor, vice governor, and members of the Regional Legislative Assembly in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi provinces and in the cities of Marawi and Lamitan. A postponement in the polls, in the meantime, will allow President Benigno Aquino III to appoint OICs to elective positions in the ARMM, and to administer the region until elections are held in 2013. ARMM’s elected officials’ terms of office are expiring in September this year.

Healing Democracy is currently active in holding consultations regarding the postponement proposal.

The group is a consortium of the Christian Organizations for Rural-Urban Development (Concord), Inc, Healing Democracy partners include Liga ng Kabataang Moro Lanao; Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao; Ethnic Groups Development Resource Center (EGDRC); Rural Missionaries of the Philippines; Community-Based Health Services(CBHS) Northern Mindanao; Suara Bangsamoro Northern Mindanao; Kawagib Alliance for the Advancement of Moro Rights; Samahan ng mga Lingkod na Artista sa Mindanao, and the Moro-Christian People’s Alliance.

The group was originally established to monitor the conduct of the May 2010 National Elections in the ARMM.

According to the group, delaying the elections in ARMM and authorizing Malacañang to appoint OICs of the ARMM is a move that undermines democracy and disregards the democratic right of the people of ARMM to choose their own leaders.

“Lest the Aquino administration forget, the foundation of democracy is that it is ‘the rule of law and not of men.’ that prevails. The Aquino administration argues that the postponement will institute reforms on the war-torn region, “a failed experiment” as his top aides call it. That the ARMM is being singled out as a bastion of election lawlessness is clearly prejudicial,” it said.

Reacting to Malacañang’s assertions that postponing the polls will help clean the process of corruption, the group said it was unfair that the ARMM was being singled-out.

“There are estimated to be 152 private armies at the behest of local politicians; vote buying, corruption, and other electoral ills are prevalent all over the country. The urgency of electoral reform should be propagated not with respect to ARMM alone but to the entire country. If this government is serious in instituting reforms and ending lawlessness in ARMM, it must get its priorities straight. Disband the private armies and institute effective safeguards to promote clean, honest, and orderly elections. Lawlessness must not be used as a pretext to act above what the law demands. If anything, lawlessness must prompt a reaffirmation of the law. And the law says explicitly that any postponement of the election must be ratified by the ARMM electorate, not by presidential fiat or congressional enactment,” it said.

Representatives from various groups signed a manifesto saying postponing the polls and will further weaken the Moro peoples’ expression of self-determination. They said delaying the elections was all about political payback, and not about implementing genuine reform.

Among those who signed the manifesto are members and local leaders of the Kawagib Moro Human Rights Free Basilan 73, Liga ng Kabataang Moro, Suara Bangsamoro, Barug-Katungod, the League of Filipino Students and members of the progressive party-lists Gabriela Women’s Party and ACT Teachers Party-list.

“Malacañang’s continuous intervention on the affairs of the ARMM reflects insincerity on the part of this administration to recognize the spirit of RA 9054 which provides the right of the Moro people to an autonomous government. Appointing officials and postponing the elections will further contribute to issues of legitimacy that may lead to instability and political infighting among Moro tribes. If the President is truly concerned for the well-being the people of the ARMM he will put their interest first above those who guaranteed his win in the 2010 elections,” said the group.

“As stakeholders in the ARMM we stand for reforms. We want greater autonomy. We want clean, honest, and peaceful elections. We want democratic governance. These reforms can be initiated with political will and acts of Congress that empower the ARMM. All these reforms must be instituted without depriving the people of the ARMM of their right to choose who governs them. All these reforms should be initiated without postponing the election.”

Neil Murad of Suara Bangsamoro said that in consultations in Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, an overwhelming majority of residents surveyed are against the postponement, with 90 out of 100 registered voters saying that they want the polls to proceed this coming August.

Questionable Motives

Several representatives have already rejected the postponement, questioning its lawfulness and the motives of its proponents.

Former Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said allies of President Aquino III want to assume power over the ARMM “without a legitimate mandate coming from the electorate.” Pimentel, principal author of the law that created the ARMM.

“What’s the point of consulting the people of ARMM if the administration and its allies in Congress will not heed their ardent wish to push through with the ARMM election as scheduled?” he asked.

“Who are they fooling? The consultations would amount to nothing if the public pulse gained from it is callously disregarded by the administration.”

In the meantime, Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino said allowing President Aquino to appoint OICs for the next two years is a highly volatile move.

“It would further aggravate deep divisions among our Moro brothers and sisters in the South,” he said.

“This move concocted by the President’s political sycophants makes a mockery of Muslim autonomy and self determination. It further undermines what little concession our Moro people have achieved through the ARMM. How can reforms be achieved by trampling on the very principles of autonomy that we want upheld?”

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  1. the posponement of ARMM election is a political payback acording to my perception.if pnoy wanted to appoint mujiv the people in the ARMM will difinitely create conflict specialy the MNLF Or MILF.Because,this group wanted to exercises thier rights of,if pnoy appoint those his ally in politic i think, there will be no peace in the ARMM..pnoy! must be clever to his ally..

  2. mujiv hataman is an ally, a remnant of the ampatuans.. this is not to discredit or malign him. but we just want that none of the ampatuan relatives or allies must come back to power. they all have “utang na loob” to datu andal ampatuan. if pnoy will appoint hataman, he should first make a background check on him–what he did to his campaign managers when he lost in the gubernatorial elections last may 2010. the nbi must investigate this.

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