Moro leader warns of “radicalization” if ARMM election postponed; Deles says postponement will “facilitate the peace process”

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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY  (MindaNews/05 June) — On the eve of the resumption of debates to postpone or not postpone the August 8 ARMM elections, a prominent Moro leader warned of radicalization of those who feel disenfranchised by Malacanang’s intent to postpone the election to May 13, 2013.

“Depriving us of right of suffrage and autonomy may radicalize the people who feel that they have been robbed of their right suffrage due to the whims of people surrounding the President,” former Tawi Tawi Gov. Almarin Tillah told MindaNews.

But Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles last week said the synchronization of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) polls to the 2013 midterm elections will  “facilitate the peace process.”

In a press statement issued by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Deles said, the postponement “provides for the flexibility that whatever will come out of the negotiating table will not be subjected to the prejudice of a newly-elected regional government that has a term of three years.”

“What happens in the ARMM is relevant to the peace process because that is the core of the territory. The people who are voters in the ARMM are the people who will also be the main constituency that will be affected by the peace process,” Deles stated.

Nothing about peace process

But Senator Franklin Drilon, principal author of Senate Bill 2756 which seeks to reset the August 8 polls to synchronize it with the national mid-term polls on May 13, 2013, mentioned nothing about the peace process in his three-paragraph exploratory note Drilon wants a vote on the measure before the Senate adjourns on Wednesday.
Drilon was more concerned with the cost of the election (he put the figure at P1.8 billion). The ARMM election is scheduled every three years and this year’s election has been allocated a budget.

Drilon explained it is “opportune time for the new administration to be more prudent and discerning in its current expenditures. The
savings to be realized from the postponement of the elections may instead be used for urgent social services and physical
infrastructures needed in the region.”

Drilon’s bill supports House Bill 4146 passed in March, allowing the President to appoint officers-in-charge in the interim.

Tillah lamented  that the supporters of Senate Bill 2756 are selective in invoking the Constitution to justify their intentions. During interpellation by Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. on June 1, Drilon repeatedly said  holding the elections on August 8, 2011 as provided by Republic Act 9333 passed in July 2004 would be unconstitutional.

He  argued that RA 9333 which set the ARMM election on the second Monday of August 2005 and the second Monday of August three years after is unconstitutional as the Constitution mandates that elections are synchronized.

Drilon cited the Supreme Court ruling in Osmena vs Comelec in 1991 which declared RA 7056 which would have held the national elections on the second Monday of May 1992 and the local elections on the second Monday of November 1992. The Supreme Court in its decision said that the Constitution mandates the holding of synchronized national and local elections.

The ARMM’s first election was in 1990. The 1993, 1996, 2001, 2005 and 2008 elections in the region were not synchronized with either local or national elections.

The filing of certificates of candidacy for the August 8 elections ended on May 25 with 14 running for governor and 16 for vice governor. The candidates are already preparing for the campaign period which starts on June 24 and ends on August 6. Subject to plebiscite Former Elections Commissioner Mehol Sadain in a lecture on the ARMM Election issue for the Congressional Internship Program for Young Mindanao Leaders at the House of Representatives on March 28, noted that the date for elections in the ARMM has been set by Republic Act 9054, the Organic Act governing the ARMM.

“Any move to change it should pass the proper procedure for amending RA 9054. More to the point, if H.B. 4146 wants to change the ARMM election date and synchronize it with the national and local election date in the 2nd Monday of May, the one way of doing it is for a law to be passed by two thirds of the Houses of Congress voting separately, and thereafter subjected to a plebiscite.”

Sadain also stressed that Art. VII, Sec. 7 of RA 9054 also provides for a situation where if no election is held, or even if one is held and the officials are not proclaimed and have not qualified, “the incumbent elective officials of the autonomous region shall continue in effect until their successors are elected and qualified.”

“In short, we have here a law that specifically provides for hold-over instead of appointment. Until this is brought to the Supreme Court and struck down by the Honorable Court, the provision may be used,” he argued.

Supporters of postponement say RA 9333 changed the date set by RA 9054 which is second Monday of September to second Monday of August, and that did not require a plebiscite.
But Sadain explained that “it is basic in Constitutional Law that the
Court will not exercise its power of judicial review unless a case
ripe for adjudication is filed before it. This also applies to past
laws (like R.A. 9014 and 9333) which according to the proponents of
postponement and appointment supposedly changed the ARMM election date
without going through a plebiscite. We should note that these laws
were not brought to the Supreme Court for the Court to rule on their
constitutionality or compliance with R.A. 9054. Their implementation
being political and administrative actions, it does not necessarily
imply that they are legal because the Court has not ruled on their
legality, and the Court has not so ruled because their implementation
was not brought to the Court’s attention. In other words, they cannot
be used to justify a change in R.A. 9054 that does not go through a
plebiscite.”
Constitutional or Unconstitutional
“Malacanang’s sponsorship of the postponement of the August election
is a violation to right to suffrage, our right to govern ourselves as
enshrined in the 1987 Constitution,” Tillah said.
Sen, Francis “Chiz” Escudero meanwhile expressed surprise at Drilon’s
argument citing the unconstitutionality of RA 9333.
“It is not for the Senate to say that a law is unconstitutional, which
is why I am surprised to hear the said argument by Sen. Drilon,”
Escudero said.
The Supreme Court is now deliberating on the case to declare RA 9333,
which was used as basis for the 2005 and 2008 ARMM election as
unconstitutional.
Drilon will take on the Senate floor Monday for the continuation of
debates on SB 2657.

Scheduled to interpellate Drilon are Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri,
Serge Osmena, Edgardo Angara and Jinggoy Estrada and Allan Peter
Cayetano.
Malananang allies in the Senate are rushing to have a Senate vote on
the bill Monday as it may need to be submitted to the Congress
Bicameral Conference to harmonize it with HB 4041 which was passed in
the House of Representatives on March 23, 2011, and then sent back to
the Senate and the House for Ratification.
Congress only has three session days remaining after it declares
recess sine die on June 9 and reconvene  in the last week of July for
the President’s State of the Nation Address.
Tillah said that they are still hopeful that senators decide on the
holding of the ARMM election as scheduled, otherwise they may have no
other recourse but to go to the Supreme Court and the streets.
Supporters of the postponement like the Reform the ARMM Now (RAN)
argue that a 21-month postponement of the election is necessary to
institute reforms in the autonomous region under the Aquino
administration. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin with a report from Carolyn O.
Arguillas/MindaNews)

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