Mind da News: ARMM Election: Real Issue

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/21 Jan) – Last week there was a discussion in kusogmindanaw@yahoogroups on whether to go ahead with the election in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao this year or postpone it until 2013 to synchronize it with the national elections. Relevant to genuine autonomy, that is not the issue.

Relative to its election, ARMM has bogus autonomy. Its election is only for the regional governor and representatives to the Regional Assembly. The provincial and municipal officials are elected together with the national officials. In such a set up, the regional, provincial and municipal officials cannot present to the electorate a unified program of government – cannot have a joint mandate.

Furthermore, the regional, provincial and municipal officials run under national political parties whose interest in the Region is the votes of the inhabitants, not the economic and social welfare of the people of the Region. Consequently, the elected officials from the Region are always beholden to Manila.

In fact, the modus operandi has been this: Malacañang picks candidates who have given or can give the party in power the votes of the Moros. During the Arroyo regime, candidates jockeyed for President Arroyo’s endorsement and whoever she endorsed were sure of winning.

To be truly autonomous, ARMM should have the least supervision and be completely free from the control of Manila. That is what its Organic Law provides. To be so, ARMM officials – from regional down to municipal – should be elected in elections separate from the national and under regional parties whose platforms address the problems and issues peculiar to the Region. Hence, there is the need for the regional, provincial and municipal officials to be elected under regional parties in separate elections.

The real issue then is how to synchronize the elections of the regional officials and those of the provincial and municipal officials — freeing them from the control of Manila and the national parties — proper to ARMM genuine autonomy.

To realize this, hold the ARMM election as scheduled on August 2011. Lobby Congress to pass a law suspending the elections of the provincial and municipal officials in ARMM to be held together with the ARMM election in 2014. The Regional Assembly should pass a law for the formation of regional political parties independent of national parties.

Congressional representatives, however, should be elected in national elections. The regional parties can coalesce with national parties for the election of the senators, president and vice president. Malacañang and Congress should encourage this while giving ARMM the necessary assistance without political strings attached. – (Patricio P. Diaz, General Santos City)