Mind Da News: Urgent? Irrelevant!

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (February10) – MindaNews reported Monday that Secretary Lualhati Antonino, Chair of Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), considers the postponement of the election in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as an “urgent need” – needed to “give President Aquino enough space to solve the region’s problems”.

Antonino declared at a business gathering in Davao City last Monday: “I advocate for the postponement of the ARMM election. (The postponement) is part of our advocacy for the development of Mindanao.  It will give the President a chance to fix what is ailing the ARMM.”

The postponement is Antonino’s advocacy. She said it. Is it urgent? Is it necessary?

The reason for the “urgent need” of the postponement is quoted above – the need for President Aquino to solve ARMM’s problems.

How much space will the postponement give him? Two years! — unless it will be for the duration of his term. Only by a miracle can the present ARMM problems be solved in one year – even in six years. President Aquino is not a miracle worker.

By Antonino’s statement, President Aquino “does not know his onions” – to borrow from a dear departed friend. Why should the President still order MinDA to do consultations to determine “what the people [in ARMM] want”? This had been done lately in a six-month region-wide multi-level consultations that came up with eleven urgent issues which were tackled in the September 20 -21, 2010 ARMM Peace Summit.

If President Aquino “knows his onions”, he should order MinDA not to do it alone as it obviously appears but to coordinate with the ARMM in solving the latter’s problems – to regard ARMM as dignified “Big Brother” despite its disabilities, not as pitied “Little Brother”.  If President Aquino truly wants to solve ARMM’s problems, he does not need MinDA to find out those problems.  As already stated, the problems had been found. He should solve those problems together with ARMM respecting its autonomy, not through MinDA.

What are these problems that MinDA believes President Aquino can solve by postponing the ARMM election?  Antonino only mentioned “auditing, budgeting and human resource concerns”. However, to magnify the problem, she mentioned the unhappiness of “local executives” about existing conditions in ARMM; then, to emphasize: “The constituency is not too happy either; so, we recommend that the President exercises his supervisory powers to fix the problem.”

Obviously, Antonino is not aware of the ARMM Peace Summit or, if she is, she does not see its significance.  Had she bothered to review the Summit documents, she would have learned that the main root problem in the ARMM is leadership.  Had she learned so, she would have realized the irrelevance of her recommendation – of her advocacy.

Unless the present interim leadership is changed, President Aquino’s exercise of his supervisory powers will be futile. To install the proper leadership, the ARMM electorate must exercise its mandate to elect the new Governor, Vice-Governor, and Regional Legislative Assembly. ARMM is not bereft of men and women who can lead the Moro people to moral, political, social and economic excellence. Hence, the most urgent need in ARMM is holding the August election on schedule – as mandated in R.A. 9054.

After the August election, the New ARMM Administration – the Governor, Vice-Governor and the Regional Assemblymen– should address the eleven issues tackled at the last Summit, including what could have surfaced later. Only then will the supervision from the President be critically needed together with fund and other forms of assistance from the national government.

And, most critical, too: The President and other parties in power should keep their hands off the ARMM election. Let the ARMM leaders form their own parties and decide who to field as candidates. Patronage – the worst under the Arroyo regime – has spoiled ARMM leadership. True to his election platform, President Aquino can do the change – wean ARMM leaders from patronage — by telling himself and other parties in power not to politically intervene.

Has Antonino realized that by her advocacy she is recommending the perpetuation of patronage – presidential and political — in ARMM and, consequently, its problems?  Has she realized that she is considering ARMM as being under the umbrella of MinDA in disregard of ARMM autonomy? – (Patricio P. Diaz, General Santos City)