Hold 2010 polls earlier in ARMM?

“First, it violates that law which synchronizes the local and national elections. Most importantly it is constitutionally infirmed. Under the Constitution, local and national elections shall be held on the 2nd Monday of May. The ARMM  local government units (LGUs) are no different from any other LGUs,” she told MindaNews by phone Sunday.

In Activity 34 which is “Election Day,” the Comelec calendar says under 34.1, that “outside ARMM,” the date is 05.10.10 while under 34.2, the date for ARMM is 04.20.10.

Commission on Elections chair Jose Melo favors the earlier date for ARMM “so that the concentration of our security forces and the election administration would be focused in the ARMM.”

“If  that would be the case, there might be fewer shenanigans there,” Melo was quoted by GMANews.TV as saying last month.

Commissioner Elias Yusoph was earlier quoted by GMANews.TV as saying the commission would be violating the provisions of the Omnibus Election Code if the poll body conducts an earlier and separate elections for the ARMM.

“We still have to amend the law if it will be pursued. The law states that the elections must be held simultaneously, nationwide,” Yusoph said, adding that some ARMM officials were against the proposal.

“Ayaw nila yun e dahil (They don’t like that because) it is like ARMM is being marked as an area where cheating occurs,” he said.

The region has been referred to as “cheating capital of the country” because of its statistical improbabilities and for alleged filling of ballots even before election day.

Last year’s computerized election in the ARMM, saw the reelection of governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan. Ampatuan announced during his State of the Region Address in November 2008, that the automated elections on August 11, has “emancipated ARMM from being touted as the ‘cheating capital of the country.”

“The electoral exercise was acknowledged by local and foreign observers as the most peaceful and credible election in this country so far, thus helping Comelec (Commission on Elections) regain its credibility and heading to a good start in 2010 national elections,” he said.

Fatima Salapuddin of the Bangsamoro Women Solidarity Forum wants to know why the elections will not be synchronized. “If Philippine institutions and laws are not capable of managing Moroland, it should let go. Leave the Moros on their own. We never asked to be part of this country. We were forcibly dragged into it,” she said.

But some representatives of civil society groups appear to favor the proposal.

Lacs Dalidig, chair of the of the Islamic Movement on Electoral Reform for Good Government (IMERGG) in Lanao del Sur says holding the lections earlier in the ARMM is “okay.”

He said he welcomes the 2010 elections with a campaign “Hijrah from Haram to Halal,” haram (forbidden) referring to vote-buying and other vote-related irregularities, and halal (permissible), as “voting in accordance with the law and Islamic way.”

According to the Islamic dictionary.com, “ Hijrah can also mean to leave a bad way of life for a good or more righteous way.”

An official of a non-governmental organization who requested not to be named even wants the elections held in the ARMM much earlier, in February.

“If the Commission finds wisdom, propriety and necessity in moving the elections early, they might as well do it in February. Then the Commission will have an opportunity to address pre-proclamation issues and post-election contest way ahead of the regular date. They can conduct special elections in March for those areas where elections will fail, r
esolve not later than 30 April pre-proclamation controversies, and commence and resolve election contests earlier. Electoral legitimacy plays a major part in governance stability,” the source said.

Amina Rasul, executive director of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID) said: “since we have already accepted that ARMM is not autonomous, I see no reason why moving the election date earlier should ruffle political feathers. Perhaps it will do us good to have the elections a month early so that the tendency to sue ARMM as a ‘vote bank’ can be eliminated. However, the election law will need to be amended. Will the palace allow that?”

But Samira Gutoc of the Amanah Bank and the Young Moro Professionals says “dates are immaterial if the thousands of multiple, ghost registrants are not cleansed.”

“Para que automation when cheating becomes automated, hastened,” she added. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)