Civil society, poll watchdogs prepare for ARMM elections

The groups, including the Citizens Coalition for ARMM Electoral Reforms (C-CARE), an accredited poll watchdog, held their Regional Coordinating Council meeting at the El Manuel Hotel and Restaurant here early this week.

The council discussed some election-related issues, including their assessment of the past electoral exercises and the latest registration of voters.

During the meeting, the group came up with strategies and other mechanisms on how to enhance or improve their monitoring of the coming ARMM polls.

Citizens CARE chair Salic Ibrahim said a more coordinated response from civil society groups within and outside the ARMM is needed to make these approaches more community-based and achieve better results.

Since its creation in 2005, the Citizens CARE has been monitoring the conduct of elections in the region.

Ibrahim, the lead RCC convener, said they planned not just for the ARMM polls but also for the 2010 general elections.

The other RCC conveners are the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting,  Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society, Legal Network for Truthful Election, Bangsamoro Women Solidarity Forum Inc., Bangsamoro Lawyers Network, National Movement for Free Elections, Bishops-Ulama Conference, and Federation of United Mindanawan Bangsamoro Women Multi-Purpose Cooperative.

The August 11 election is the seventh in the 18-year history of the ARMM. The first election was held in 1990 with Zacaria Candao of Maguindanao winning as governor. In 1993, Liningding Pangandaman of Lanao del Sur won as governor. From 1996 until his arrest off Sabah, Malaysia in late 2001, Moro Naitonal Liberation Front (MNLF) chair Nur Misuari governed the region, followed by his Foreign Affairs officer, Dr. Parouk Hussin from 2002 to 2005. Since 2005, Datu Zaldy Ampatuan, son of Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan, has been governing the region and is seeking reelection.

ARMM comprises the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Basilan and Shariff Kabunsuan (carved out of Maguindanao) and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.

Several peace groups have called for the postponement of the polls to enable government to focus on the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the tripartite review of the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement  with the MNLF. (MindaNews)