Q and A on the ARMM elections (2) with former Senator Aquilino Pimentel: Postponement is beneficial to peace process?


Q and A on the ARMM elections (2)
with former Senator Aquilino Pimentel:
by Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews

2nd of three parts: Postponement is beneficial to peace process?

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/04 April) – Is postponing the August 8, 2011 polls in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to May 13, 2013 to synchronize it with the local and national elections, beneficial to the peace process as claimed by Malacanang and the authors of House Bill 4146?

Former Senator Aquilino Pimentel’s take on the issue in this second part.

Q.  Representatives who pushed for postponement of the August 8, 2011 ARMM election also cite  in their explanatory note that the move to postpone is “beneficial to the peace process and is in fact supported by the MILF and MNLF” because “both groups want to prioritize the resolution of peace issues by the government; MNLF’s demand for a full implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement that would result to amendments of the Organic Act and MILF’s demand for leverage for a definitive timetable for the talks to achieve a significant breakthrough.”

A. While the MI/MN LFs are key players in the ARMM, they are not the only groups that are interested in keeping the central government’s commitment to the holding of elections in the region as mandated by the ARMM laws. The whole of Mindanao is edgy over the possible adverse repercussions of postponing the elections.

The supposed prioritization of peace issues by the government and the rebel groups need not be derailed by the holding of the ARMM elections as fixed by the ARMM law.

In fact, the search for peace will have to continue – before, during or after – new officials are elected in the August ARMM elections.

It is a non-sequitur to argue that the peace process will be impaired by allowing the people of ARMM to elect their leaders as provided by law. What will impair the peace process is the perception that will arise from the central government’s non-implementation of the law on ARMM elections that is already in the books.

If the central government cannot even comply with the terms of the ARMM laws that are of its own making, why will the Moro peoples of Mindanao believe things will be better by deferring the ARMM elections on the say so of the government panel?

Q. They also said postponement will: “enable the Commission on Elections to institute electoral reforms such as purging of the voter’s list and biometrics’ voters’ registration” and that the expenses supposed for the August 8, 2011 elections “may instead be funneled to support the reforms to be introduced in the region.”

A. The Comelec, itself, has issued public statements that it is ready to conduct the elections. Indeed, there is a need to cleanse the process but there are devices in law that can be used to do so without postponing the elections. For example, challenging voters who are ineligible to vote in the precincts. And purging Comelec officials seen to be instruments of mass corruption of the electoral process in the ARMM.

Other reforms may be instituted without reference to the actual holding or non-holding of the ARMM elections.

As for the money that will be used to conduct the ARMM elections, that is already provided by law and is according to the Comelec available for that purpose.

–  That by “setting concrete targets that can be achieved by 2013 and are to be pursued by the elected officials through 2016, the ARMM may be able to lower its poverty incidence and improve literacy pursuant to the Millennium Development Goals of the Philippines.”

A. lot of nonsense. Since when has the attainment of the MDG of the country been dependent on postponing elections set by law?

The MDG may be achieved by suitable people ELECTED by the electorate in elections held in accordance with democratic processes. The people must be allowed to exercise that power to elect their leaders as provided by law so that they may support them in the pursuit of the MDG. No one, not even the president, can say in a democratic setting that he knows better than the people who should govern them.

–   That in two years, “the introduction of reforms can initiate the transformation of ARMM into the self-determining unit as envisioned by the Constitution which will hopefully continue upon the election of its officials in 2013.”

A. A pipe dream that will only enable those close to Malacanang to wield power for their own purposes rather than for the good of the people of the ARMM. The appointment of ARMM officials in the aftermath of postponing the elections set by law would be an undemocratic retrogressive step that will radicalize the people of the region who as of now believe in resolving their differences through the electoral process under the rule of law.

I believe that the Moro youths would find themselves alienated by the move to postpone the ARMM elections and in the process, they’d be more inclined to use other means than the law to pursue the just aspirations of the Moro people.  [Tomorrow: “Up to this very day, the problem persists”] (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)