Robredo: “No pork barrel” for ARMM caretakers

MAKATI CITY (MindaNews/30 July) — The number of applicants for appointment to the major posts that would be vacated in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by noon of September 30 is rising but Local Governments Secretary Jesse Robredo said he does not know if people would still volunteer to work for ARMM if they are told there would be “no pork barrel.”

“No assemblyman will get a pork barrel when they are appointed,” Robredo told a roundtable discussion on “Roadmap for Reforms in the ARMM,” organized by the Institute for Autonomy and Governance Thursday afternoon at the AIM Conference Center.

“Pork barrel” is an offensive term to use in a predominantly Muslim region where pork is haram (forbidden) but Robredo was referring to the commonly used term for government funds appropriated for projects designed to ingratiate legislators with their constituents.

The ARMM’s Regional Legislative Assembly (RLA) refers to it as the fund for “district impact projects.”

Republic Act 10153, signed into law on June 30, postponed the August 8, 2011 polls in the five-province, two-city region to synchronize it with the May 13, 2013 national mid-term polls and allowed President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to appoint officers in charge (OICs) to implement reforms in the ARMM from noon of September 30, 2013 to noon of June 30, 2013.

ARMM comprises the provinces of Basilan, Sulu,Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.

At least 50 major posts are up for grabs in the ARMM: governor, vice governor, 24 members of the Regional Legislative Assembly, and Cabinet secretaries and heads of offices.

Robredo warned it will not be “business as usual” in the ARMM where governance has been hounded by problems of transparency and accountability, and absenteeism in its 21-year existence.

He said the present system in the ARMM is that the budget for projects is just divided among the legislators without considering priorities.

Robredo said they have set up an NGA (National Government Agencies) Transition Team composed of assistant secretaries of major line agencies “in preparation for, if the Supreme Court rules in favor of postponement, for takeover by October 1.”

He said it is important to establish the benchmarks and baselines “as to where we are in the ARMM and what we can do in the next 20 months.”

He said the benchmarks that will be applied for ARMM will be the same benchmarks for other areas in the country.

Robredo said they’re looking at the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in the ARMM as main indicator.

“If you compare Philippines with ARMM, especially if you talk of poverty incidence and unemployment rate, it’s really down (in the ARMM). In fact in a presentation done by Prof Winnie Monsod, there were indicators where it will require two generations before we are able to achieve our MDG goals. There were indicators where you need 100 years before we are able to achieve the desired outcome,” he said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)