PNoy says ARMM poll postponement to level playing field

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/25 July) – President Benigno S. Aquino III said the postponement of the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was intended to ensure fairer elections as well as enable the region to “experience the benefits of good governance”.

In his second State of the Nation delivered this afternoon before the joint session of Congress, Aquino said that allowing the elections to proceed next month as scheduled by law “would have perpetuated the endless cycle of electoral fraud and official abuse that has led the ARMM to become one of the poorest regions in the country”.

He said many [politicians] who wish to return to or retain power are prepared to engage in corrupt practices just to win again.

Congress has passed Republic Act 10153, the law that canceled the August 8, 2011 ARMM elections to synchronize it with the May 13, 2013 polls.

Thanking Congress for passing the law, Aquino said the synchronization will give candidates for ARMM posts “less opportunity to employ command votes for political patrons”.

He said politics in the region has been dominated by horse-trading and transactional politics that during national elections, “whoever is in power in ARMM is free to manipulate the electoral machinery in his region, ensuring that non-allies do not get votes”.

Former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol, who surrendered last week to the Commission on Elections to serve a 6-month prison sentence for indirect contempt, alleged that then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the manipulation of the results of the 2004 and 2007 elections in the province.

Aquino also cited a Commission on Audit report which said that from 2008 to September 2009, in the office of the ARMM governor 80 percent of the funds disbursed “were for cash advances that cannot be justified.”

The ARMM governor at that time was Zaldy Ampatuan, who is now being detained as one of the principal accused in the November 23, 2009 massacre of 58 persons in Ampatuan, Maguindanao. (MindaNews)