ARMM Administrative Act signed into law

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/15 December — Twenty-one years after its birth and two years after its elected governor was detained for his alleged involvement in the massacre of 58 persons in late 2009 and his vice governor took over, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao finally has an Administrative Code.

Acting ARMM Governor Ansaruddin Alonto Adiong on Thursday afternoon signed into law Muslim Mindanao Act 287 or the Administrative Code of the ARMM, at the Shariff Kabunsuan cultural Complex.

Ansaruddin Alonto Adiong, Acting Regional Governor of the 21-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) signs the Muslim Mindanao Act No. 287 also known as the Administrative Code of the ARMM, afternoon of December 15, 2011 at Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex.Mindanews Photo by Toto LozanoAdiong was elected vice governor in 2004 as running mate of Governor Zaldy Ampatuan. Like Ampatuan, he was reelected in 2007 but assumed the post of Acting Governor on December 14, 2009, a few days after the arrest and detention of Ampatuan.

“While we are busy watching the political events that unfold in Central Government, we should not ignore the fact that right here in our region, an administrative code is born, designed to bring a better future for our children, a legacy that cannot and should not be overshadowed by any political episode in Metro Manila,” Adiong said.

Adiong was referring to the pending motion for reconsideration filed before the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of RA 10153, the law that synchronized the supposed August 8, 2011 elections in the ARMM with the May 13, 2013 national mid-term elections and the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona. RA 10153 also authorized the President to appoint officers-in-charge (OICs) to serve from September 30, 2010, the end of the term of office of the elected governor, vice governor and 24 legislators, to June 30, 2013.

“The Code may not be perfect as we wish it be, but at least, it brings closer to a perfect system of Autonomous Regional Government where the dreams and aspirations of Bangsamoro are reflected on, where issues and concerns are addressed and settled,” said Adiong, who described the law as a “milestone achievement that we should be proud of.”

In his opening remarks, ARMM Executive Secretary Naguib Sinarimbo and head of the Advisory Council for the preparation of the draft Code, said the passage of the Code shows the ARMM “will not be irrelevant.”

He described the ARMM bureaucracy as “the only one in the country with the practical experience of autonomy.”

“You don’t find that experience in other areas,” he said.

The Code, he told MindaNews, “clearly delineates the powers and functions of every office and officers. It is also a sacrifice for the current administration for it now limits our discretion and insures the stability of the bureaucracy.”

Adiong and the other elected officials have been on holdover capacity since noon of September 30 this year, until the Supreme Court rules with finality that the President can appoint OICs.

Director Lydia Udaundo-Mastura, director of the Administrative Management Service of the Office of the Regional Governor and chair of the Technical Working Group on the Preparation of  the ARMM Administrative Code, narrated the background of the Code.

She said the passage of the Code is mandated under Item 62 of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Philippine Government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1996. The same provision is contained in RA 9054, the law that amended the Organic Act creating the ARMM.

The Regional Planning and Development Office included the preparation of the ARMM Administrative Code in its 2003 ARMM Regional Executive Agenda but it was only in 2005 when a draft Code was filed with the Regional Legislative Assembly.

On January 16, 2007, then governor Ampatuan issued EO 1 creating an Advisory Council and its secretariat for the preparation of the draft of the Code but the actual drafting of the Code started only in 2008. A series of workshops and writeshops were conducted under the Japan International Cooperative Agency’s (JICA) Human Capacity Development Project and by August 4, 2009, the first draft of the Code was presented to Ampatuan.

Adiong’s first Executive Order in February 2010 was to amend Ampatuan’s EO 1, putting in new members of the Advisory Council chaired by ARMM Executive Secretary Naguib Sinarimbo. The final draft of the Code was submitted by the Technical Working Group to Adiong on January 28, 2011 during his State of the Region Address.

A series of reviews then followed until the proposed ARMM Administrative Code was certified as Urgent Bill by Adiong and passed by the Regional Legislative Assembly on November 28 this year.

Assemblyman Ziaur-Rahman Adiong, assistant majority floor leader and principal author of MMA 287, said the ARMM’s Administrative Code is “ating sagot sa daang matuwid” (our answer to the straight path) of President Aquino.

“Whatever is the outcome in the Supreme Court (on the ARMM), once we depart, we are leaving before you a more stable ARMM, more adaptable to progress.”

Before handing over a copy of the Administrative Code to Governor Adiong for signing, Datu Roonie Sinsuat,  Speaker of the Regional Legislative Assembly, said the Code “may not be a perfect law but rest assured that at the end of the day, the benchmark regional law will amply serve the people.”   (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)