COMMENT: Synchronization That Will Work (III)

III. What Will Work

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/25 August) – Despite skepticism based on hard realities that RA No. 10153 would deliver ARMM from bad governance, corruption and anomalous elections through the OICs within 21 months, let all help that the President’s optimism and faith will prevail. In his speech freely translated earlier, he said:

”Tiwala po akong ang pagpapaliban at pagsasabay ng halalan sa ARMM sa local at pambansang halalan ay susi upang maisagawa ang mga kinakailangang reporma sa rehiyon, at magsisimula lamang ito kapag hindi na nabubusalan ang karapatang bumoto ng mga taga-ARMM, at may naihalal silang tapat, may malasakit, at maasahang pinuno.”

He believes:

First: The synchronization of elections provided in RA No. 10153 is the key to the necessary reforms in ARMM.

Second: These reforms are just the beginning. Once ARMM voters are free to exercise their rights to vote, they will elect sincere, responsible and competent leaders.

Two paragraphs earlier in his speech, the President admitted:

“Ang mga mithiin pong ito, maisasakatuparan kaya natin sa loob ng isa’t kalahating taon? Maaaring hindi po.”

He conceded the plan might fail. But despite this concession, he strongly hoped:

“Ngunit umaasa tayo na kapag naranasan ng ARMM ang maayos at tapat na pamamalakad, sila na mismo ang tuloy na magpapatulak at tutulak na ipagpatuloy ang nasimulan na nating pagbabago. Ito na po marahil ang pinakamagandang pagkakataon natin upang tuldukan ang matagal nang problema ng rehiyon.”

The President is confident. Letting the Muslims in ARMM savor good governance would give them the incentive to continue that kind of governance – a good occasion to put an end to election problems in the region.

Whether the OIC experiment under RA 10153 succeeds or fails, starting the second Monday of May 2013, the elections for ARMM regional officials will be together with the general and midterm elections of local and national government officials.  Will this strengthen the autonomy of ARMM?

Logical Premise

This question, the core of our proposition, is premised on the fact that ARMM based on its charter, Organic Act – RA No. 1634 as amended by RA No. 9054 – is autonomous. Its “regional autonomy” is distinct from “local autonomy” provided in RA No. 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991 enjoyed by local government units subject to the direct supervision and control of the Department of Interior and Local Government.

Logically, Congress set the ARMM election – as provided in the Organic Act – apart from the regular national and local elections evidently to strengthen regional autonomy. That as provided in the 1987 Constitution, Article X, Sec. 18, “the basic structure of government for the region consisting of the executive department and legislative assembly, both of which shall be elective and representative of the constituent political units” regional election is mandated as essential to ARMM autonomy.

RA No. 10153 abolished regional election — amending the Organic Act without the benefit of a plebiscite in complete disregard of the constitutional mandate and to the detriment of regional autonomy. That ARMM regional election the Organic Act has provided has been abolished in order to end its abuse by the ruling Muslim clans is a great paradox – like cleaning the house by burning it down.

That great paradox will not strengthen regional autonomy. It is the election of provincial and municipal officials in ARMM synchronized with that of the regional officials that will.

This synchronization has the following features:

First: Consistent with Section 18 quoted above, the regional election shall be for local and regional government officials in ARMM.

Second: Regional election shall be separate from the Philippine general and midterm elections.

Third: Regional election shall be free of political interventions, whatsoever, from the Manila government and the major national political parties.

Fourth: Regional election to be truly autonomous shall be conducted with candidates forming regional parties as the platform of their government. The formation of the regional parties shall be provided in a regional law complementing the Autonomous Election Code.

How will this strengthen Muslim autonomy?

Anomalous Set Up

As Section 18 of Article X of the 1987 Constitution states, the executive and legislative departments of ARMM “shall be elective and representative of the constituent political units”. Indeed, the ARMM governor, vice governor and assemblymen are elected by the provinces, municipalities and cities constituting the region. But these political units elect their own officials during the national elections. In fact in some instances, they are set apart from the regional government by the Local Government Code of 1991.

This set up is anomalous. If the provinces, municipalities and cities in ARMM are truly the regional government’s constituent units, then the whole and the parts must be united through election and the party system – as the Philippine and local governments are so united.

During elections, the candidates present their program of government through their party on which they stand united. This program concerns the whole and all parts of the region and must be supported by the regional and local government officials. In short, they must all run under the same platform, even if local candidates have specific local programs.

In the present political set up, regional candidates run under national political parties primarily to win.  There is no party program [for there are no regional political parties] on which to base their government. Likewise, the ARMM local government candidates run under national political parties also for the same primary reason – to win. Whatever program of government they have is at variance with that of the regional government – both, most probably, alien to regional autonomy while incongruous with each other.

RA No. 10153 will worsen this alienation and incongruity. Synchronizing the ARMM regional and local elections contrary to RA No. 1015 will remedy this anomalous political set up.

(To Be Continued)