DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/08 June) – What criteria will President Benigno Simeon Aquino follow in appointing Officers-In-Charge (OICs) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) when the term of office of the incumbent regional officials ends at noon of September 30?
As of Wednesday, four months after Malacanang launched its moves to have the August 8, 2011 polls in the ARMM postponed, no one appears to know, not even Reform ARMM Now! (RAN), the coalition of civil society organizations that lobbied for postponement and supported Malacanang’s plan to synchronize the election with the May 13, 2013 national mid-term polls and appoint OICs purportedly to “reform” the ARMM.
But the coalition wants to “recommend and actively monitor the process of selecting from the best,” Samira Gutoc, RAN convenor, told MindaNews.
The Senate on Monday night passed Senate Bill 2756 which seeks to postpone the ARMM polls and allow President Aquino to appoint OICs in the interim. On Tuesday night, the House of Representatives which passed in March a similar measure, House Bill 4146, adopted the Senate version which provides under Section 4 the creation of a screening committee “whose members shall be appointed by the President, which shall screen and recommend, in consultation with the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Senate President, the persons who will be appointed as OICs.”
The creation of a screening committee is a new provision in the approved bill. It was not in House Bill 4146 and Senate Bill 2756 as filed.
The provision, however, does not state the number of members and does not specify if the screening committee will be composed of members who are from the ARMM. It merely says the members “shall be appointed by the President.”
RAN, Gutoc said, “proposes a broadly-inclusive leadership in ARMM as a paradigm for selecting future officers-in-charge.” RAN’s criteria to select the OICs, said Gutoc, is that “they should comply with the Organic Act qualifications, be morally-upright, technologically able, most of all be progressive.”
The bill says OICs must meet the qualifications for Regional Governor, Regional Vice Governor or Members of the Regional Legislative Assembly as provided for in its organic act, RA 9054.
The bill as filed in both the House and the Senate, bans OICs from running in the ARMM elections in May 2013. As approved, the provision on the ban was deleted.
In a press statement, RAN said “Reform, not accommodation should be priority of PNoy government in ARMM.”
Malacanang, it said, should “not accommodate the same people who are now holding the posts in the ARMM.”
The statement quoted RAN convenor Lowell Macabang, chair of the Mindanao Peace Solidarity, as saying that if Malacanang accommodates “the same old faces to handle ARMM by appointing them, it’s impossible for reforms to prosper.”
For Dr. Darwin Rasul III, chair of the Bangun Tausog-Minority Rights Forum, the basis for appointing OICs should be “reforms, not political accommodation.. otherwise, PNoy can’t institute reforms with the same old clans and political warlords dominating the appointments.”
The RAN ended its statement by saying “a 60-40 balance in favor of having reformists as appointees vis-a-vis trapos (traditional politicians) can be a compromise formula.”
But even before the bill was passed, MindaNews sources in the ARMM said lobbying and jockeying for appointment as OICs had intensified among political parties and party-list groups allied with President Aquino, including those who were defeated in the May 2010 polls.
At least 50 major posts in the ARMM are to be vacated by September and filled by President Aquino’s OICs: 26 elective posts (governor, vice governor, 24 members of the Regional Legislative Assembly), and at least 24 Cabinet members and heads of offices.
This is the first time in the 21-year history of the ARMM that a President is appointing OICs to govern a Constitutionally-mandated autonomous region and those who oppose postponement are reportedly preparing to go to the Supreme Court to seek remedy as soon as President Aquino signs the bill into law.
In the past, when ARMM elections were postponed, the incumbents continued to serve in office on holdover capacity. Moro National Liberation Front leader Nur Misuari, who was elected governor a full week after he signed the Final Peace Agreement with the Philippine government in September 1996, served on holdover capacity from 1999, when his three-year term was supposed to have ended, until his arrest off Sabah, Malaysia for alleged illegal entry in late November 2001, days after he was accused of mounting an uprising in Sulu and in Cabatangan, Zamboanga City. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)