ARMM legislators nix polls postponement

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/14 March) — Members of the Regional Legislative Assembly (RLA) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have issued a position paper strongly opposing the postponement of the upcoming regional elections.

Datu Roonie Sinsuat, RLA speaker, said the ARMM legislature thrashed House Bill 4146 that seeks to reset the date of elections in the autonomous Muslim region and would also allow President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III to appoint officers-in-charge until new officials are elected.

HB 4146, which is authored by Maguindanao Rep. Bai Sandra Sema (first district), passed the House committees on suffrage and electoral reforms and Muslim affairs, last month. The bill seeks to hold the ARMM elections together with the mid-term elections in May 2013.

Sinsuat said the RLA finally decided last week to come up with a unified stance opposing the bill “as it is unconstitutional and a proposition that defeats the essence of autonomy.”

The ARMM’s legislative body cited six grounds why the elections should push through in the second Monday of August 2011.

The move to reset the elections will violate Republic Act 9054 or the ARMM charter, specifically Section 7, Article VII (three-year term of elective officials) and Section 7, Article XVIII which sets the first ARMM elections under RA 9054 to the second Monday of August 2001. From these two provisions, it should be interpreted by inference that there shall be elections in the ARMM every three years thereafter, the RLA position paper said.

HB 4146 intrinsically translates into popular opinion as a move to amend RA 9054.  But under Section 3, Article XVII of the ARMM charter, any such measure, even if passed into law, still has to be ratified by the people “in a plebiscite called for the purpose, it added.

In their message to President Aquino, the RLA members said they believed that “he will not trample upon the EDSA-born 1987 Constitution that his mother, the late President Corazon C. Aquino, had championed in life as shining icon of democracy.”

“The essence of autonomy, emanating from a self-determined people’s will, must prevail over some vested interests,” the position paper stressed.

The move to defer the ARMM elections has gained the support of the Mindanao Development Authority, chaired by Secretary Luwalhati Antonino.

In an earlier statement explaining her position, Antonino said the move for postponement is anchored on the following critical imperatives:

* Address the volatile political situation in the region;

* Eliminate undue influence from officials already in office;

* Avoid the delay and disruption of the peace process; and,

* Call for reforms and pursue holistic development. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)