With BBL in limbo, ARMM polls to push through; Hataman seeks reelection but..

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/11 Oct) — With the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in limbo, elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will proceed as scheduled on May 9, 2016, with the candidates for governor, vice governor and 24 assemblymen filing their certificates of candidacy (COCs) on October 12 to 16, along with those aspiring for national and local posts.

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman told MindaNews Sunday that he is running for reelection, but clarifies that his filing of a COC this week “does not mean BBL is dead.”

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman. Photo courtesy of armm.info.com
ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman. Photo courtesy of armm.info.com

“I have to file in the interest of the BBL,” he said, adding that if by December the law is passed and ratified by February, then I have to sacrifice and give way to the transition.”

“That’s very clear to PNoy (President Aquino),” who, he said, asked him to “sacrifice” his personal wishes.

Hataman had earlier considered running for Governor or Congressman of Basilan if the BBL had been passed.

Under the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro of October 15, 2012 and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on March 27, 2014, the ARMM is deemed abolished upon the promulgation and ratification of the BBL, and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) takes over, runs the region under a ministerial form of governance until the election of the first set of Bangsamoro officials.

Hataman ran for ARMM Governor in 2013 knowing his three-year term may be cut short if the BBL is passed and ratified and the BTA were to take over.

Congress has set December 16 as the new target date for the passage of the BBL, the law that would provide for the setting up of the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous political entity that would replace the ARMM.

Both Houses of Congress are still on the period of interpellation for the substitute bills, HB 5811 and SB 2894. But both bills have been criticized by the MILF and civil society as “unacceptable” for allegedly providing for Bangsamoro that would be “less than the ARMM that it seeks to replace.”

Congress is on break from October 10 until November 2.

Only in the ARMM: Gov and Vice Gov voted as team

Hataman was appointed OIC Governor of the ARMM on December 22, 2011, when the August 2011 election was reset for May 2013, to synchronize it with the national and local polls. He was elected Governor in May 2013, under President Aquino’s Liberal Party, with Haroun Alrashid Lucman as Vice Governor.

In the Philippine electoral system, it is only in the ARMM where the Governor and Vice Governor are elected as a team.

Section 4 of Article VII (The Executive Department) of RA 9054, the law governing the ARMM, provides that the Regional Governor and the Regional Vice Governor “shall be elected as a team by the qualified voters of the autonomous region.”

Section 4 states that “a vote for a candidate for Regional Governor shall be counted as a vote for his team mate for Regional Vice Governor. A vote for a Regional Vice Governor shall be counted as a vote for his teammate for Regional Governor.”

“For purposes of their election, the candidates for Regional Governor and Regional Vice Governor shall belong to the same political party or coalition of parties. The Commission on Elections shall promulgate the necessary rule or rules to give effect to this provision of law,” the provision states.

26 posts for ARMM

ARMM comprises the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi and the mainland provinces of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur.

Hataman, former three-term Representative of the Anak Mindanao (AMin) party-list in Congress,  hails from Basilan while Lucman is from Lanao del Sur.

Up for elections in the ARMM are 26 posts – Governor, Vice Governor and 24 members of the Regional Legislative Assembly.

The law provides for three representatives each per legislative district. Basilan and Tawi-tawi have one legislative district each or three Assemblymen per province; Sulu, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur have two legislative districts each or six Assemblymen per province.

There are three candidates who are certain to file their COCs for President this week: Vice Pesident Jejomar “Jojo” Binay (United Nationalist Alliance or UNA), the administration’s newly-resigned Local Governments Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas (Liberal Party), and Senator Grace Poe (Independent).

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has targeted October 15 as his deadline to decide whether or not he would run for President, run for reelection as mayor or retire from politics if his daughter Sara runs for mayor. If he runs for President, Duterte said he is gong to run under the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP)

Binay and Poe have yet to announce if they have candidates for the ARMM.

At least 1.6 million voters

ARMM has 1,626,405 voters as of the October 28, 2013 barangay elections, according to records posted on the website of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Nationwide, the number of voters as of that perid is 53,786,223.

Of the five provinces, Maguindanao has the highest number of voters at 591,307 followed by Lanao del Sur’s 396, 355, Sulu’s 274,648, Basilan’s 221,753 and Tawi-tawi’s 142,342.

ARMM has been criticized in previous elections as the “vote bank” for candidates seeking national posts – President, Vice President and Senators.

In the 2007 Presidential polls, for instance, Maguindanao gave the Arroyo administration candidates a 12-0 sweep in the province, then under Governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr.,

Ampatuan’s son, Zaldy, won as ARMM Governor in 2005 and was reelected in August 2008 but was unable to complete his term following his arrest and detention in December 2009, as one of the suspects in the Novemer 23, 2009 massacre of 58 persons, 32 of them from the media.

ARMM has reportedly instituted electoral reforms but election watchdogs have vowed to monitor closely the 2016 polls as it is the first time a Presidential election is synchronized with the local and ARMM polls. The 2013 mid-term polls only had senators as national candidates.

Future Bangsamoro

Among the country’s 17 regions, the future Bangsamoro, originally targeted to be set up by June 30, 2016, will be distinct from the ARMM it will replace and the rest of the regions, if the vision of the GPH and MILF peace panels under the peace agreement were followed, because it will be the only region in the country that will run a government through parliamentary means.

The Bangsamoro will also be the only region with an “asymmetric relationship” with the Central Government, “reflective of the recognition of their Bangsamoro identity, and their aspiration for self governance” and in accordance with the Constitutional provisions on the creation of autonomous regions.

According to draft BBL submitted to Congress on September 14 or what became HB 4994 and SB 2408, the powers of government are vested in the Bangsamoro Parliament which shall set policies, legislate on matters within its authority and elect a Chief Minister who shall exercise executive authority on its behalf.

The legislative authority shall be exercised by the Bangsamoro Parliament, the executive authority by the Cabinet which shall be headed by a Chief Minister.

The Chief Minister, who shall be elected by a majority vote of the Members of Parliament (MPs), appoints the Deputy Minister from among the MPs, and the members of the Cabinet. (Carolyn O. Arguillas /MindaNews)