House approves bill resetting ARMM polls PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 24 March 2011 14:36

Majority of the members of the House of Representatives approved at around 9:40 p.m. Tuesday a measure postponing the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

House Bill 4146, authored by Maguindanao Rep. Bai Sandra Sema proposing for the postponement of the ARMM elections until 2013, got 191 affirmative votes, 47 negative, and two abstentions.

Akbayan party-list Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, said she voted “yes” for the postponement of the ARMM polls because “while elections are a fundamental element of democracy, its conduct alone is not the yardstick of democracy.”

“If marred with violence, if it results in the perpetuation of elite politics, then elections become a tool for exclusion,” she said.

To frame HB 4146, which also synchronizes the ARMM election with the national elections, Bag-ao said, as a crude issue between those who are for or against democracy “is to engage in populism and to commit an act of political idiocy.”

“Regularity of elections is insufficient if the other prerequisites of democracy — basic fairness, informed and meaningful participation, and the full imposition of the rule of law — are not guaranteed. It is for naught if it only contemplates the continuation of the status quo in Mindanao, a situation marked by rampant violence and impunity, by inaccessibility of political power, and dominance of the voice of money over reason, rules, equality,” she said.

The Akbayan party-list lawmaker noted the synchronization of the elections “is a crucial step towards reforming ARMM. It gives various stakeholders the chance to institute law and order, install the steps needed to address clan conflicts or rido, and make judicial system more responsive.”

It also gives various stakeholders, especially the civil society, the opportunity to “promote a climate of peace and free choice as a pre-condition for conduct of the ARMM election,” she added.

With postponement of the ARMM polls to 2013, Bag-ao said, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is given enough time and resources to purge the voters’ list and pave the way for a regional population census and a general registration of voters using the biometrics system of identification.

“With P1.2 billion in savings if elections in ARMM is postponed, this job can be done during the transition to 2013,” she said.

“The postponement also ensures that peace is in the agenda. It helps build the momentum for the reform of the Organic Act of ARMM, and harmonize reform initiatives inside and outside Congress, with the ongoing peace negotiations with the MILF. It would (also) help the government ensure that as it fulfills its mandate, which includes the delivery of justice to the families of the Maguindanao massacre, the ARMM is not left behind,” she noted.

Bag-ao said by amending Republic Act 9333, which fixes the date of elections in ARMM, “Congress is not stepping on the autonomy of ARMM. We are merely re-setting the date of the election, which is not one of the devolved powers of ARMM.”

The lady solon also stressed that what is being proposed under HB 4146 “is not extending the terms of local officials nor having holdovers.”

“The proposed bill recognizes the residual powers of appointment of the President and thus having officers-in-charge for ARMM until the May 2013 midterm and regular ARMM elections, provided that there are clear and fair selection mechanism for the said appointments,” she said.