Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan to run for ARMM governor if..

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/02 June) – Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan has neither confirmed nor denied  reports he would run for governor of the five-province Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in May 2013 but said his decision would depend on “the bosses upstairs.”

“Depende sa mga boss sa taas, depende kay Presidente pag sinabing takbo ako,” (It depends on the people upstairs, if the President says I run,” he told MindaNews while waiting for his turn to sit as observer in the peace talks between the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) at the State Room of the Palace of the Golden Horses in Kuala Lumpur last week.

He said he would run for the top regional post if backed by “a party with machinery.”

But Tan, governor from 1995 to 2001 and again from 2007, confirmed he would no longer  run for governor of Sulu next year even if he can still run for a third term.

He said he would run for vice governor because “gusto ko ilipat na sa mga bata (I want to pass it on to the young)  then I will just provide some guidance.”

“So who will run for Sulu governor?” MindaNews asked. “My son,” Tan, who is turning 62 in July, replied.

He said there’s nothing wrong in having another Tan for governor. “Kung maganda naman ginagawa mo ano naman ang masama doon?  Kung masama gawa mo, kahit isang Tan ay napakalungkot naman ng buhay  ng tao.” (If what you’re doing is good, what’s wrong with that? If what you’re doing is bad, even if there is only one Tan, that would be tragic for the people).

Before Tan and the four other governors in the five-province ARMM left for Kuala Lumpur on May 27 to attend the May 28 to 30 peace talks, reports had circulated that Tan was running for ARMM governor.

Father and Son again?

If he runs and wins the ARMM governorship and his son wins as governor of Sulu, it will be the second time for a father-and-son team in the ARMM. In 2005, Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr.’son, Zaldy, won the ARMM governorship and was reelected in 2008.

Tan, representative of the first district of Sulu from 1987 to 1992, said his former colleague at the House of Representative and now MILF peace panel senior member Datu Michael Mastura asked him if he was running, but he replied, “paano ako tatakbo eh ayaw nyo (how can I run when you don’t like).”

“What do you mean they don’t like?” MindaNews asked. “Gusto nila walang elections” (they don’t want elections), he said.

Mastura told MindaNews he did ask Tan, “tatakbo ka?” (are you running?) but meant if Tan was running for a third term as Sulu governor.

There is no question about local elections pushing through as scheduled on May 13, 2013. But questions were raised about the fate of the ARMM 2013 polls after the GPH and MILF peace panels signed a 10-point “Decision Points on Principles” on April 24.

Point 2 of the agreement provides that “the status quo is unacceptable” and the panels would
“work for the creation of a new autonomous political entity in place of the ARMM.”

Reform Agenda

Election in the ARMM was supposed to have been held on August 8, 2011 but Congress passed a law synchronizing it with the national mid-term polls on May 13, 2013.  The law also allowed the President to appoint officers in charge (OICs) to serve until noon of June 30, 2013 when the new set of officials elected in May 2013, shall have assumed post.

OIC Governor Mujiv Hataman and OIC Vice Governor Bainon Karon assumed post on December 22, 2011 while the 24 RLA assemblymen and three sectoral representatives took their oath of office only on  May 8.

The caretaker officials are running the ARMM on a reform agenda.

Hataman, during the Multi-Stakeholders Forum on the GPH-MILF Peace Process held at the Bishops-Ulama Conference office in Davao City on May 18 told the crowd of mostly civil society leaders that despite the criticisms on their efforts for reform, he always tells CSOs (civil society organizations), that they will not be obstacle to slow down efforts to reach a peace agreement and that he would be the first to want to have a Peace Agreement even before the 2013 elections because he can see what will be the problems after 2013.

“Meron akong reservation kung magkaron ng peace agreement after 2013 elections, dahil una, sinabi ko na okay lang kun yung mga papasok sa loob ng ARMM ay katulad ng mga pag-iisip nyo, at kung baga, hindi yong interest nung sarili ang iniisip kung hindi yong general interest. Paano na lang kung darating yong panahon, o itong 2013 napaka critical. Paano na lang kung bumalik yong mga warlords sa loob ng ARMM?” (I have reservations in having a peace agreement after 2013 elections because first, I said, it’s okay if those who will govern ARMM are like-minded as you, who will not think of their own interest but the general interest. What happens if, 2013 is very critical. What if the warlords return to govern ARMM?)

From ARMM to NAPE

The transition from ARMM to the NAPE (new autonomous political entity) was discussed in executive session on May 28 in Kuala Lumpur but at the end of the day, the panels agreed to refer the issue to their respective principals.

But GPH peace panel chair Marvic Leonen gave hints on what the transition would be during a forum with the business sector in Davao City on May 25.

“Many suggest that there should be no elections in (the ARMM in) 2013 if only because we want to serve the peace process. And of course there are many logics behind this. But my question is, would that  really be the solution?” Leonen asked a joint meeting of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. and the Mindanao Business Council.

“Is it really the solution to postpone electoral exercises because we are unsure of it or would it be better to have electoral exercises and in the process try to reform it and see where its weaknesses are and let it continue in order that we can continually improve it?” Leonen asked.

If  no final peace agreement is signed this year, Leonen said  “definitely the law takes over” and “the law says there will be an election in 2013.”

But he added that “even with a peace agreement in mind, it is difficult at best, again not to have elections in 2013. However, we think it is still possible to address the concerns of the MILF  even with election in 2013.” He did not elaborate how these concerns would be addressed.

Three days later, in Kuala Lumpur, Leonen explained how to the MILF. No details were made public except hints that the May 13, 2013 elections in the ARMM will push through alongside a  transition from ARMM to NAPE. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)