DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/15 May) — The filing of certificates of candidacy for the August 8, 2011 elections starts on May 19, the same day the Senate Committee on Local Governments holds its consultation in Marawi City on a bill seeking to postpone the elections and synchronize it with the May 13, 2013 national mid-term polls.
This as Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Monday announced that they had “informally notified” the Comelec to prepare for the elections in case of a Senate decision against postponing the August 8 polls.
“We will try to tackle that if we have the time to tackle that. We have notified informally the Commission on Elections to be prepared just in case we cannot really enact the law, although that has been certified by the president as an urgent bill,” Enrile said.
Comelec information chief and spokesperson James Jimenez told MindaNews that even before the Senate notification, they had been preparing for the scheduled August 8 polls because that is their mandate.
Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., chair of the Senate committee on local governments, in a statement said “there is a need to conduct further hearings as to provide the bases for any conclusions in the eventual committee report.”
He expressed confidence that after the May 19 hearing in Marawi, his committee can complete its report and bring to the floor immediately after.
The filing of certificates of candidacy for 26 elective positions – regional governor, vice governor and 24 assemblymen — is from May 19 to 23. It was originally set to start May 2 and was later reset to May 14 and finally to May 19.
ARMM voters will elect only five positions – governor, vice governor and their three district representatives.
The campaign period for the August 8 automated polls is from June 24 to August 6.
Senate Bill 2756 seeks to postpone this year’s election to synchronize it with the May 2013 national mid-term elections and to allow the President to appoint OICs to govern the ARMM in the interim.
The House of Representatives passed a similar bill, House Bill 4146, before it adjourned in March.
In Marawi City, representatives from civil society and local governments welcomed the move of Senator Marcos to consult them but Salic Ibrahim, chair of the Reform ARMM Now (RAN) coalition said in a press statement that the consultations “won’t make a difference now as battle lines are drawn…. There will be another violent chapter in election history with an inevitable clash between political titans in ARMM — Adiongs, Mangudadatus.”
Ibrahim was former head of a group monitoring elections in the ARMM.
RAN set a rally at the Senate grounds on May 11, calling for the passage of the bill.
“I am for the postponement of ARMM elections because I stand by the principles of democracy that election should free from external threat, manipulation of votes, fake and padded voters list. To have another election without correcting the flawed system is an act of stupidity, cowardice to fight the evils that lurk in the system and arrogance not to accept that there is a problem,” the press statement quoted Norkhalila Mae B. Mambuay-Campong, as saying. Campong opened a Facebook account to maximize information campaign on the proposed bill.
Groups opposing the postponement of the election also have their own Facebook account to disseminate information.
RAN’s press statement also quoted Lacs Dalidig, who also served as election monitor in previous elections, as saying that “usually, ARMM breaks the tie or determines the 9th to 12th slots for senators. There has never been any clean elections in ARMM ever since.”
Candidate Benigno Simeon Aquino, now president, topped the race in all ARMM provinces – Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur — in the May 2010 polls.
Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero, who is against the postponement of the August 8 polls, said the House and Senate versions of the bills proposing to reset the elections, are flawed, citing Section 2 of both bills which provides for the new term of office of the elected officials.
Under the two proposals, the term of office of the Regional Governor, Regional Vice Governor and Members of the Regional Legislative Assembly of the ARMM shall be for a period of three years, which shall begin at noon on the 30th day of September next following the day of the election and shall end at noon of the same date three years thereafter.
“If both bills seek to synchronize the ARMM poll with the national elections in 2013, then Section 2 is incoherent. The election in 2013 is done in May and all winners will assume office on June 30 of the same year. Their term will expire on June 29, 2016,” Escudero said.
“If we follow the Section 2 provision of HB 4146 and SB 2756 that ARMM elected officials’ term will begin on September 30, 2013 and ends three years after, that’s September 29, 2016. How can they participate in the next political exercise, which is May 2016, if the expiration of their terms is not synchronized with the rest of the country? It totally defeats the purpose of postponing it to synchronize,” he said.
Escudero added that the “incoherent provision” is evident of a rushed and haphazard work. “We are being rushed to tackle and approve the bill. It is clearly done in a haphazard way. Now they also want us to approve it in a haphazard manner. This is not right,” he said.
The vote in the House of Representatives to postpone the August 8, 2011 elections to May 2013 was 191 for, 47 against, two abstentions and 43 absent. Among the Mindanao representatives, it was 42-14-2-6 and in the ARMM itself, it was 3-4-1-0.
Under RA 9054, the law governing the ARMM, the Regional Legislative Assembly is supposed to decide on the issue of postponement, not Congress.
Former Senator Aquilino Pimentel, dubbed the father of the Local Government Code and the ARMM laws, told MindaNews in a Q and A published in early April that “ideally, the initiative to postpone the elections should be the ARRM’s prerogative through the RLA. After all, the RLA is the autonomous region’s lawmaking body. And the elections determine the will of the people of ARMM. In a democracy that is how the will of the people is decided – through elections. In Constitutional terms, sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them. To change the dates of the ARMM elections is a matter that should be left to its people. The political principle of subsidiarity should apply here – what the smaller unit of government can do or ought to do should not be done by the bigger unit, that is, the central government.”
HB 4146 was passed on second and third reading in six hours. It was also certified as urgent by President Aquino.
Pimentel, former Senate President, said, the Senate is “well advised not to join the mad rush to postpone the ARMM elections despite the certification of the President. The certification of bills as urgent is qualified by circumstances of national emergency or calamity, neither of which is present in the matter of the move to postpone the ARMM elections. The calamity is the certification itself.”
The House Bill cited “need for reforms” as the principal reason behind the proposed postponement. The Senate version mentions nothing about reforms. It merely cites the expense.
“Under Republic Act No. 9333, regular elections for elective officials of the
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) this year, 2011, has been set to
August 11, the second (2nd ) Monday of August. The conduct of a separate elections for
the ARMM will cost P1.8 Billion this year,” the bill introduced by Senator Franklin Drilon states in its explanatory note.
The scheduled date of elections is actually August 8, not August 11 as indicated in the explanatory note. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)