ARMM officials to serve on holdover capacity if..

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/15 September) – Incumbent officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will continue to serve their posts on holdover capacity if the petitions filed before the Supreme Court questioning the legality and constitutionality of RA 10153 are not resolved by September 30.

September 30 is the end of the three-year term of the ARMM officials.

Voting 8-4, the Supreme Court issued on September 13 a temporary restraining order (TRO) “effective immediately and until further orders from the court, enjoining and prohibiting the implementation of RA 10153,” the law that reset the August 8, 2011 elections in the ARMM to synchronize it with the mid-term polls in 2013 and allowed the President to appoint officers in charge (OICs) to serve in the interim.

It also said that in the event that the cases are not decided by September 30, 2011, the incumbent officials — Acting Governor Ansaruddin Alonto Adiong and Acting Vice Governor Rejie Sahali-Generale and 24 members of the Regional Legislative Assembly —  “shall continue to perform their functions on a holdover capacity pursuant to Section 7, Article VIII of Republic Act No. 9054.”

Section 7 provides for the three-year term of office ”which shall begin at noon on the 30th day of September next following the day of the election and shall end at noon of the same date three (3) years thereafter.” The same section provides that incumbent officials “shall continue in effect until their successors are elected and qualified.”

The last sentence of Section 7 is not found in RA 6734, the Organic Act of the ARMM passed in 1989. But it was added in  RA 9054 which amended RA 6734 in 2001.

Adiong,  elected vice governor in 2005 and reelected in 2008, assumed the post of Acting Regional Governor in December 2009, days after  two-term Governor Zaldy Ampatuan was arrested as one of the suspects in the massacre of 58 persons in Ampatuan, Maguindanao on November 23. Generale assumed the post of Acting Vice Governor.

The Screening Committee created by Executive Order 51 on July 28, has until September 20 to  submit to the President a list of three nominees each for the 24 posts that will supposedly be vacated and filled by noon of September 30.  The President a few days ago announced he would name the OICs before leaving for his state visit in the United States on September 18 to 23.

The Supreme Court’s TRO was issued on September 13.

“Three for one” peace settlement

Six nominees for OIC Governor and six for OIC Vice Governor have been shortlisted for public interview in Cotabato City on Tuesday afternoon in the presence of Local Governments Secretary Jesse Robredo, chair of the Screening Committee,  the same day the Supreme Court decision came out. Another public forum for the same set of nominees will be held in Zamboanga City on September 15.

The “transformation” of the ARMM is a crucial factor in the first component of the government’s “three-for-one” proposed peace settlement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen in his statement on the KL talks on August 23 described the proposal as “principled, realistic and practical” involving three components: massive economic development; political settlement with the MILF, and; cultural-historical acknowledgment.

“In the first component, the government informed the MILF that the government will go through a transformation of the ARMM,” he said, adding there would be a “massive program of social services and economic development and these will prepare the people and serve to strengthen the foundations on which economic development can commence and be sustained.”

The MILF peace panel rejected the government’s proposal and recommended to its Central Committee to also reject the same but on August 31, the Central Committee said it would need more time to come up with a decision to sustain or reverse the panel.

The GPH panel proposed a September 12 to 13 meeting in Kuala Lumpur but the MILF said it was best for the Malaysian facilitator to shuttle between the panels to narrow down what it described as “heaven and earth” gap between the MILF and GPH proposals. Leonen said it was “not too far apart.”

Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed, the Malaysian facilitator met with the MILF in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on September 8 and with the GPH panel in Manila on September 9. He also met with members of the International Contact Group in Manila. The results of the shuttling, however, have remained confidential.

Getting ready

RA 10153 was passed on June 6 but it was only on June 30 when the President signed the bill into law. The campaign period for the August 8 polls was scheduled to begin June 24.

The Commission on Elections continued preparing for the elections until the law was signed on June 30.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez told MindaNews Thursday that they are now “getting ready for the possibility of elections.”

He said the Comelec en banc is considering the conduct of automated elections which would take “around a minimum of six months to prepare.”

The last Comelec resolution on the August 8 polls, however, was Minute Resolution 11-0577 promulgated on May 31 which adopted the recommendation of Resolution 2011-001 of the Comelec Steering Committee “not to proceed with either full or partial automated elections and instead to undertake immediate contingency plans  for the conduct of manual elections.”

Should the Supreme Court (SC) declare as unconstitutional RA 10153, conducting an automated election in the ARMM is estimated to cost P1.5 billion while the conduct of manual  special election would cost around P460 million, Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes said during the August 31 hearing on the proposed 2012 budget of the Comelec.

In its August 31 report, said Senate finance committee chair Franklin Drilon pointed out that Republic Act 9369, the poll automation law, mandates that all regional, national, and local elections after 2007 be automated.

Drilon is the principal author in the Senate of RA 10153.

The ABS-CBN report said Drilon asked the Comelec, “You can overrule Congress?” to which Brillantes replied, “The fact is, when we go over RA 9369, it is clear that in the policy itself, it allows under extraordinary circumstances … to go manual.”

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said that in the light of the SC’s TRO,  he hopes Comelec would “fix the date for November at the latest. Fixing flaws of automation is no excuse. ARMM will elect only five officials: Governor, Vice Governor and three RLA members (per congressional district).”

“With PNP (Philippine National Police), AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), PPCRV (Parish-Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting), etc.. focusing on the polls, cheats will find it more difficult to frustrate ARMM peoples’ will,” he said.

In Cotabato City on Tuesday , Local Governments Secretary Robredo told a press conference before the public forum with the nominees that they were aware of the possible issuance of a TRO but t would continue with the screening process.

Six nominees for OIC governor and six for OIC vice governor have been shortlisted for the September 13 and 15 public interviews in Cotabato and Zamboanga cities, respectively.

Shortlisted for OIC Governor are: Mujiv Hataman of  Basilan; Sanchez Ali, Saidamen Pangarungan, Dimas Pundato and Norma Sharief of Lanao del Sur; and  Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu. Only Mangudadatu did not show up in the Cotabato forum.

Shortlisted for OIC Vice Governor are Hatimil Hassan of Basilan; Bobby Datimbang, Bainon Karon and Eid Kabalu of Maguindanao; Dimapuno Datu-Ramos  and ARMM Acting Regional Governor Adiong. Only Adiong did not show up in the Cotabato forum as he was attending a budget hearing on the ARMM in Manila. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)