PNoy’s OIC ARMM gov to take over next week even without SC ruling

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/16 December) — President Aquino has appointed a new governor for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) — former Anak Mindanao party-list representative Mujiv Hataman of Basilan —  who will assume his post along with OIC vice governor Hadja Bainon Karon on Dec. 22 or 23, Local Governments Secretary Jesse Robredo said.

This, even as the Supreme Court has yet to rule on the motion for reconsideration (MR) on the
Oct. 18 ruling that RA 10153 is constitutional.

“SC (Supreme Court) has not ruled yet (on the MR) but prevailing rule is no TRO (temporary restraining order) on ARMM postponement law,” Robredo told MindaNews in a text message.

But former senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., who was among those who filed an MR,  told MindaNews the Palace move is “illegal.”

Voting 8-7, the Supreme Court on October 18 declared as constitutional RA 10153, which synchronized  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 on October 18 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,”  Marquez said.

The 8-7 decision came a month after the Supreme Court, by a vote of 8-4, issued on September 13 a TRO against implementation of  RA 10153 and said that in the event that the cases questioning the constitutionality of the law are not decided by September 30, 2011, the end of the three-year term of the ARMM officials, the incumbents — 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 official have been serving on holdover capacity since noon of September 30, 2011.

Reform ARMM

In a telephone interview, the 39-year old Hataman said he received a copy of the appointment signed by the President on November 29, only this week.

He and Karon took their oath of office before Robredo noon of December 15, he told MindaNews.

They will serve as OIC governor and OIC vice governor until noon of June 30, 2013.

Hataman told MindaNews he is optimistic that positive changes will happen within their 18-month stay in office.

The Reform the ARMM  Now (RAN), a coalition of groups espousing reforms in the ARMM, had earlier crafted a Roadmap for Reforms in the ARMM, including what to do in the first 100 days.

Reforming the ARMM is also part of the government’s proposed peace formula in the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Hataman said he will convene the Regional Peace and Order Council in January as part of their Internal Security Plan and hopes they could immediately begin groundbreaking rites for the development projects that would be undertaken.

Within the first 100 days, Hataman said he wants an inventory of actual number of teachers and other personnel to ensure there no ghost teachers or ghost employees.

Hataman, Chairman Emeritus of Anak Mindanao, ran for governor of Basilan in the May 2010 elections but lost to reelectionist Jum Akbar. When he assumes the post of ARMM Governor,  Hataman will govern five provinces — Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur – and the cities of  Marawi and Lamitan.

Karon chairs the Women’s Committee of the Moro National Liberation Front.

No official notice

As of 5 p.m. Friday, the ARMM leadership had yet to be officially informed of the appointments of Hataman and Karon and the schedule of the turnover.

ARMM Executive Secretary Naguib Sinarimbo said he learned about the schedule only when reporters asked him to comment on the schedule Robredo gave them.

“We want a smooth turnover but I can’t guarantee a seamless turnover if there are legal issues,” Sinarimbo told MindaNews.

Pimentel said  “lust for power and pelf cannot abide by due process of law. It’s a pity that  Secretary Robredo  would be a party to such unbridled misuse of power and disrespect for the rule of law.”

Hataman said he is aware the Supreme Court has yet to decide on the motion for reconsideration but was assured there is no legal impediment to his assumption as OIC Governor.

The SC ruling on October 18 dismissed the petitions assailing the validity of RA 10153 for lack of merit, upheld the constitutionality of the law and also lifted the TRO it issued on September 13.

But the Supreme Court’s spokesperson, Marquez, had explained to the media in Manila on October 18 that the  President can appoint OICs “only when the ruling becomes final.”

“There is no need to wait for the SC decision on the MR,” a lawyer-member of the RAN in Cotabato City  told MindaNews.

“Legally it is not possible yet. MR is not yet resolved,” Pimentel said in a telephone interview.

Robredo himself acknowledged that the Supreme Court has not ruled on the MR but added that the  “prevailing rule is no TRO on ARMM postponement law.”

Robredo did not reply when asked why the OICs did not take over the ARMM much earlier, if indeed there was no need to wait for the SC ruling on the MR.

The SC decision on October 18 was hailed by President Aquino.

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

He said the decision “gives us a great opportunity to correct these long-standing problems. It is an opportunity that we will not squander.”

The SC ruling was penned by Justice Arturo Brion, concurred in by seven other justices.

The seven who dissented were Chief Justice Corona, under whose name was noted, “ I join the dissent of J. Velasco with respect to the appointment of the OIC Governor and vote to hold the law as unconstitutional;” Justices Antonio Carpio, Presbitero Velasco, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Roberto Abad, Jose Portugal Perez and Ma. Lourdes Sereno. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)