Dureza: decision re ARMM polls up to Congress

Suggestions to postpone the ARMM polls have been made, on the one hand to ensure a full computerization of the electoral process from registration to canvassing and on the other, to allow for a conducive environment for the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the ongoing review of the 1996 peace pact implementation between the government and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to move forward.

This, as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced it will reopen the bidding for the automation of the August 11 polls.

Last week, the poll body announced it would not be able to push through with the automation of the ARMM polls because there were no qualified bidders to supply the Optical Media Reader (OMR) and the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) systems that will be used for the two-mode automated election in the ARMM.

Rey Sumalipao, director of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the six-province, two-city ARMM told the Conference on Islam, Elections and Democracy at the Grand Regal here on March 11 that Maguindanao voters will make use of the DRE where voting and counting will be automated while voters in Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Shariff Kabunsuan and the cities of  Marawi and will make use of the OMR where only counting will be computerized.

The DRE allows voting through touch screen or touch pad while the OMR requires voters to fill up a paper ballot which is then tallied through the use of the automated counting machine.

Earlier this month, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) in a press statement said Comelec should exhaust all efforts to automate the ARMM elections since it is an important step toward the computerization of the 2010 Presidential and local elections.

Pimentel said the successful implementation of automation in the ARMM elections will help in ensuring that the 2010 elections will be clean, orderly and credible.

Pimentel said Congress will wait for the recommendation of Comelec Chair Jose Melo, on whether to postpone the ARMM elections or to proceed but revert to the manual process of counting and tabulation.

He said any move to postpone the ARMM polls or to revert to the manual process while the automation system is still being worked out should be approved by Congress.

The August 11 pols is the sixth since 1990.  

ARMM Governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan of Maguindanao (2005 to present) is the fifth governor of the ARMM since Datu Zacaria Candao, also of Maguindanao,  (1990-1993). After Candao, elected governor was Liningding Pangandaman of Lanao del Sur (1993-1996 September); followed by MNLF chair Nur Misuari of Sulu (1996-2001); and Parouk Hussin, also of Sulu (2002-2005 September). Hussin ran for reelection but lost to Ampatuan.

The ARMM, mandated under the 1986 Constitution, was the Philippine government’s version of implementing the 1976 Tripoli Agreement with the MNLF, in a post-Marcos setting.

The MNLF did not recognize the ARMM as it did not recognize the two regional autonomous governments the dictator Ferdinand Marcos organized by Presidential Decreee, purportedly in compliance with the 1976 peace pact.

But the ARMM was dangled by the Ramos administration to the MNLF in preparation for the expanded autonomous region that Congress would legislate, supposedly based on the provisions of the 1976 Peace Agreement.

The MNLF held through Misuari and Hussin, held the gubernatorial post for nine years. Misuari’s term was extended on holdover capacity because Congress took so long in legislating the provisions of the 1996 peace pact that needed legislation. When it finally approved the law on the supposed expanded ARMM , the MNLF protested, claiming the new law rendered the autonomous region even less autonomous.  (MindaNews)