ARMM election postponement in suspended animation in Senate

PASAY CITY (MindaNews/2 June) – Either way it goes, the proposed law seeking a 21-month postponement of the August 8, 2011 election in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is set for a photo finish with only three session days left before the legislature goes on recess on June 9.

Proponents of Senate Bill 2756 – which would postpone the ARMM election, synchronize the ARMM election with the general election and give powers to the President to appoint Officers-in-Charge after the terms of office of incumbent ARMM elected officials expires on Sept. 30, 2011 – are running against time.

This after they successfully retrieved from the archives last Tuesday the unfavorable Committee Report of the Senate Committee on Local Government chaired by Sen. Bongbong Marcos.

Under the Senate rules, proposed legislative measures that get unfavorable decision in the committee level goes directly to the Senate archive. It can only be retrieved for plenary deliberations upon motion by at least five senators.

Six senators moved last Tuesday to retrieve the Marcos committee report to pave the way for plenary deliberations on the Malacañang-supported legislative measure. Initially five administration senators – Sen. Tito Sotto, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, Sen. Serge Osmeña, Sen. Sonny Trillanes and principal author Sen. Franklin Drilon – moved for the retrieval of the Marcos committee report. As a gesture of statesmanship, Marcos also moved that his name be included in the list of senators that wanted plenary deliberations.

Drilon delivered his sponsorship speech to SB 2756 before the Senate adjourned on Tuesday.

Senate floor interpellation started Wednesday with Sen. Bongbong Marcos taking the floor against Drilon. But not without some glitches after Sen. Edgardo Angara questioned quorum. The majority had to call for a recess to shepherd back some senators to have at least 12 of the 23 members in the session. Interpellation finally started around 6:30 p.m. and lasted until 8 p.m.

At the end of the interpellation by Marcos, Drilon appealed to fellow senators to consider seriously the proposed law and said that he hoped voting on the measure could be done on Monday.

“There will be a lot of backchannel negotiations before Senate resumes Monday,” said a Malacañang political officer who asked not to be identified for lack of clearance to comment on the matter.

He added though that Malacañang has the numbers to pass the bill in the Senate.

Drilon said that for the measure to be passed, it has to be “approved” on Monday, and on Tuesday they go to the Senate and House of Representatives Bicameral Conference and Wednesday the Bicameral report is sent back to both chambers of Congress for ratification before it is sent to Malacañang for signing or veto by the President.

The Bicameral conference would harmonize the Senate and House versions. HB 4146 went smoothly in the House of Representatives which approved it last March 23.

Having a voting on Monday, however, may be tricky and may require a lot of parliamentary procedure savvy as at least four senators have signified to interpellate Drilon on Monday. They are Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri, Edgardo Angara, Jinggoy Estrada and Allan Peter Cayetano.

Zubiri said that they expect “a lot of arm twisting as Malacañang flexes its muscle to convince senators to follow Malacañang position.”

Present in the VIP gallery in last Wednesday’s session were groups from both camps, with the pro camp accompanied by Malacañang officials. Seen in the pro-postponement groups are members of the Reform the ARMM Now led by Hadji Lacs Dalidig and Samira Gutoc. Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Teresita Deles, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo were also present.

For those opposed to the postponement, present in the VIP gallery were Maguindanao Gov. Toto Mangudadatu, Sulu Gov. Sakor Tan, Basilan Gov. Jun Akbar and former Tawi- Tawi Gov. Almarim Tillah. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin / MindaNews)