COMMENT: Synchronization That Will Work

II. RA No. 10153 vs. Realities (Continued)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – A report in Philippine Daily Inquirer sporadically quoting from the President’s speech and an interview after the signing of RA No. 10153 on June 30  (Acting ARMM chief must have a plan – President Aquino. July 1, 2011) with other sources corroborating, clarifies the “Corollary Question” in the last issue: “What is in the master plan for the OICs to go about instituting reforms in ARMM?”

The OIC ARMM governor’s “vision should be the same as ours”, the President said. The governor should be “someone who wouldn’t continue the system that people have been used to in the ARMM” – he would not put in built-in advantages for himself. The DILG will implement a roadmap of reforms in the region.

This was a timely reminder to the OIC governor nominees. They must have a roadmap to match that of the DILG during their encounter with the Screening Committee headed by the DILG secretary. Significantly, it appears, what is required of the OIC governor, as well as of the other OICs, is not “vision” but total conformity with the DILG roadmap.

The President revealed three visions in his speech: to eliminate electoral fraud, cleanse ARMM voter list and strengthen the unity of civil societies in their efforts to educate the voters; eradicate corruption and irregularities in government; and address poverty.

Gambit Accepted

President Aquino III’s political gambit has been accepted. House Bill No. 4146 which, together with Senate Bill No.2756 became RA No.10153, was principally authored by Rep. Sandra Sinsuat-Sema of the first district of Maguindanao and Cotabato City, with two other representatives from ARMM among the co-sponsors, and voted by a majority of representatives from Mindanao including ARMM.

Months before the House passed HB No. 4146, some Moro civil societies and political groups had already organized support for the President’s reform program for ARMM. In fact, one of the lobby groups – RAN (Reform ARMM Now) a coalition of civil society organizations in ARMM – drafted a roadmap for reforms which it submitted to the team that the President had commissioned to shepherd the ARMM reform program.

Explicitly, it reveals a desire – a relief from frustrations — to institute the long overdue reform of ARMM even at the expense of its autonomy.  But implicitly, there are political motives unseen or, if seen, are ignored due to the overwhelming desire to see a reformed ARMM – ignoring realities that will frustrate that desire. This should not escape keen observers.

More Realities

Earlier, we pointed out the absence of a provision appropriating funds needed to carry out the reforms as a vital flaw of RA No. 10153. There are more realities that the OICs and DILG have to overcome for a successful launch of the reforms.

Limited Time: The 21-month time-frame is too short for a too big order of reform. Unless DILG already has a plan ready for implementation on Day One, much of the 21 months will be spent in cramming over a plan to implement – drawing the “what” and “how” of the reform plan and securing the necessary funding.

Unnecessary Burden: Section 6 of RA 10153 mandates the “Study and Review of the Organic Act”: “The appointed Members of the Regional Legislative Assembly of the ARMM shall conduct a study and review of Republic Act No. 9054 and submit recommendations to the Congress of the Philippines with six (6) months from their assumption into office.”

Is this for the amendment of RA No. 9054? Is it material for the 21-month reform?

Can the RLA do in six months the study and review? How long will it take the Congress to act on the RLA recommendations? It took the GRP-MNLF-OIC Tripartite Committee more than three years to do its study and review of RA No. 9054 and draft a bill to amend it.  The bill was supposed to have been submitted to Congress last February or March. There’s no news about it.

Has the RLA to do this and further cram the 21-month reform time-frame? During this emergency period, the RLA in close cooperation with the executive should be passing measures and other regional laws necessary for economic development and reforms. Even if the study and review will be done by an ad hoc committee, the RLA has still to deliberate on the committee report.

Expectation of OICs. The OICs are expected to put in place good governance – efficient and free of corruption.  When the Moros see the difference between the OIC governance and that of past administrations, particularly of the Ampatuans, they will elect in 2013 officials who will carry on the OIC model.

More wishful than realistic! Let’s take a look at the first OIC experiment.

The first OIC experiment happened in 22 months after the fall of Marcos.  President Corazon C. Aquino decreed all local government elective positions vacant. These were filled with anti-Marcos politicians and non-politicians from the civil society groups and the academe. From available indicators, the Aquino III’s OIC will also come from anti-Arroyo and anti-Ampatuan politicians, the civil society groups and the academe.

What happened with the first OIC experiment? Initially, it should be rated highly. Democracy was restored; government was reformed and cleansed of corruptions; the plunging economy turned around.

But sooner than expected, the OICs polarized in anticipation of the forthcoming elections. In the election of 1988, OICs from the civil society groups and the academe who refused to toe political lines lost. In succeeding elections the ousted Marcos politicians returned riding in new party wagons including that of the administration. The OICs from the civil society groups and the academe turned “traditional politicians” in order to survive.

The present political climate is the ultimate testimony of what had become of that first OIC experiment. Will the Aquino III’s OICs in ARMM be of much different stuff?

Test of Sincerity: As of August 15, there were already 40 nominees for OIC governor alone [MindaNews: Robredo says ARMM wannabe OICs can’t run in 2013 polls. August 15]. This number will still increase.  Their nomination shows their sincerity and that of their sponsors to help reform ARMM. Only one will be chosen. Will the by-passed nominees and their sponsors not resent and turn cold to the reform program? The same can be asked of the nominees for other elective positions. In short the well-laid out plan can turn divisive.

Clean Elections: The President’s most laudable reform would be the cleaning of ARMM elections. His Tagalog signing speech freely translated, he promised this: “What we want to happen in ARMM is clear. To have the true voice of the people heard, let us put an end to the dominance of political clans – the root of election cheating. And, let us dismantle their private army.”

Cleansing the voter lists and voters education by civil society groups will not end the dominance of political clans. The only way is to do the impossible — prevent them all, by “all” we mean “no exception”, from taking part in any aspect of election.

Mere dominance of political clans is not the only root of cheating and terrorism in ARMM politics. The bigger root is patronage with national political parties and leaders, foremost of them the President and administration party. President Aquino brought this out in recounting the notorious 2007 Maguindanao election but he is oblivious of it. The political clans employ their dominance to advance this patronage.

Private armies instill fear among the Moro voters. But even without the private armies, the “wai datu” (yes, datu) culture is still a big factor in ARMM election. The “wai datu” syndrome, not necessarily the Ampatuan private army, must have prevailed upon Lintang Bedol, then Maguindanao provincial election supervisor, to do the bidding of Gov. Datu Andal Ampatuan.

In May 2013, the political clans in ARMM will still slug it out as affiliates of major national political parties including that of President Aquino and they will do their utmost to please their political patrons. And, the political slugfest will be within the environment of the national elections which are really not that clean. Should President Aquino III not first clean the national elections to ensure clean election in ARMM in May 2013?

While we should want and help in whatever way we can President Aquino III’s OIC experiment to succeed, the realities will not go away; the OICs must hurdle them.

Aware with Faith

In his speech, the President is aware of the obstacles but has faith he will succeed. His Tagalog signing speech freely translated, he said:

“Can we realize in one and a half years our plan? Maybe not! However, I believe that once ARMM experiences good governance, the Muslims themselves will continue pushing the reforms we have initiated.

“I believe that the postponement of the ARMM elections to be synchronized with the May 2013 local and national elections is the key to achieve the necessary reforms in the region. This is just the beginning. Once ARMM voters are free, they will elect a sincere, responsible and dependable leader [Read: Regional Governor].”

In his peroration, President Aquino III pictured a redeemed Mindanao, the well known “Land of Promise”, as a region that is no longer the dump of false promises but a nest of prosperity and bright hope. The President’s strong faith is most heartening.

Reforming ARMM is the immediate objective of RA No. 10153. We hope the OICs will be able to turn around ARMM despite the hard realities to hurdle. But their success will not strengthen the autonomy that has been sacrificed. . (“Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Mr. Diaz is the recipient of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Titus Brandsma for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” He was conferred the 1st Agong Awards for Journalism by the Mindanao Media Forum in November 2010. You may e-mail your comments to [email protected])

[Next: Part III: What Will Work?]