“Constitutional,” SC says of ARMM poll postponement, appointment of OICs

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/18 Oct) — Voting  8-7, the Supreme Court today declared as constitutional Republic Act 10153, which reset the August 8, 2011 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to May 2013 and authorized President Aquino to appoint officers-in-charge to serve in the interim.

But Jose Midas Marquez, Supreme Court spokesperson , told a press briefing in Manila that the President can appoint OICs “only when the ruling becomes final.”

“Upon the finality of this decision, the President may appoint OICs… As we all know all parties can still file a motion for reconsideration upon notice within 15 days,”  GMA News Online quoted Marquez as saying.

The 8-7 decision comes a month after the Supreme Court, by a vote of 8-4, issued on September 13 a temporary restraining order (TRO) against implementation of  RA 10153. The 8-4 decision was announced in a press conference by Marquez just as the Screening Committee created by the President, was interviewing applicants and nominees for OIC Governor and OIC Vice Governor in a public forum in Cotabato City.

The Screening Committee was supposed to submit to the President on or before September 20 a shortlist of three names per position, for him to choose the OIC Governor, OIC Vice Governor and 24 members of the regional Legislative Assembly who will “reform” and “transform” the ARMM from September 30 until June 30, 2013.

The TRO also said that in the event that the cases (questioning the constitutionality of RA 10153) 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.”

Adiong and the other elected officials have been serving on holdover capacity since noon of September 30.

PNoy thanks SC

President Aquino thanked the Supreme Court for “upholding our effort to break the cycle of impunity, corruption and poverty in the ARMM.”

“The administration supported the bill to synchronize the ARMM elections with national elections in an effort to end the vicious cycle of abnormal elections where the mandate of the people is subverted by means of the command vote wielded by local political families,”  his press statement said.

“We believe that if local political families must attend to their election at the same time that national elections are being conducted, they will be less able to utilize command votes in favor of political patrons to subvert the national will,” he said, adding that command voting “has  contributed to the cycle of impunity, the results of which have been demonstrated in the region being bloodied by the reign of impunity, as witnessed by the Maguindanao Massacre, in which 57 people were allegedly killed by a local political family. This same impunity also manifested itself in the anomalies in office of the governor of Maguindanao (Zaldy Ampatuan) not being able to account for the release of more than 865 million in cash advances to officers.”

The Supreme Court decision, he said, “gives us a great opportunity to correct these long-standing problems. It is an opportunity that we will not squander.”

President Aquino also said he will appoint OICs “ in consultation with stakeholders; the nation can rest assured that these OICs will be people of integrity and competence—who will spend their days in office pursuing genuine reform and development.” (MindaNews)