Palace assures ARMM OICs can’t run in 2013

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/01 June) – Officers-in-charge appointed by the President to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in the event that Congress approves the proposal to postpone the elections in the region will be barred from running in May 2013, a Palace statement today said.

The statement quoted Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs Ronald Llamas as giving the assurance after senators expressed concerns on Senate Bill No. 2756, a measure which seeks to defer the ARMM elections set for August 8 and synchronize them with the May 2013 national and local elections.

“Section 6 of the proposed bill clearly provides that any OICs the President will appoint to ARMM will be ineligible to run in the regional elections set for 2013,” said Llamas, “The Executive insisted on this provision precisely to avoid granting any undue advantage to the OICs.”

“All nominees will be required to execute a written undertaking not to run in the 2013 elections in the event they are appointed,” he explained. “Those appointed as OICs can even be made to publicly sign a covenant that they will not run.”

But former senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr. earlier said that even if OICs would be barred from running, nothing can prevent them from letting their family members or relatives seeking office (in 2013).

“The administration wants to postpone the ARMM election probably to give its candidates a decisive edge in the 2013 ARMM and senatorial elections and in the 2016 presidential, vice presidential and senatorial elections,” said Pimentel.

“Behind the excuses by the administration to deny Muslim people their right to vote, I see a partisan desire to cling on to power by the president’s party mates even after President Aquino’s term is over in 2016,” the former senator said in an earlier statement.

He also feared that the OICs might convert the region’s budget, pegged at P11 billion annually, into an “election war chest” to ensure victory for the administration candidates in 2013.

“Knowing how partisan politics is played in this country, there is no doubt that the OICs will be tasked to ensure victory not only for the administration candidates in the 2013 ARMM election but also to get the votes for the administration’s senatorial bets in 2013,” Pimentel said.

The ARMM has earned the reputation of being the country’s election cheating capital. It reportedly played a key role in ensuring the victory of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the 2004 elections.

Lawyer Aquilino Pimentel III, son of the former senator who ran for the Senate in May 2007, also attributed his defeat to alleged cheating in the region in particular Maguindanao where the powerful Ampatuan clan held sway.

The younger Pimentel is still contesting the results which favored Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, who garnered the 12th and last winning slot. (MindaNews)