Stakeholders back ARMM elections synchronization PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 05 May 2011 13:38

Mindanao stakeholders including the Mindanao Business Council (MBC) have expressed support to the Aquino government’s push to synchronize elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

This came out during a policy conference on electoral, governance and political reforms attended by civil society organizations (CSO), business groups, and local government officials of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi held at the Grand Menseng Hotel in Davao city last April 27-28.

“It is a sound policy to synchronize elections as it will bring stability to a conflictive region where intense politicking can erupt into clan conflicts,” said Vicente Lao, president of MBC.
With ARMM elections scheduled this coming August 8, the House of Representatives has approved a bill on synchronization and the appointment of officers in charge after the tenure of incumbents lapse on September 30, 2011.

Filing of certificates of candidacy will start May 9, 2011 together with the resumption of sessions in the Senate.

Consultations on the issue have been done in ARMM led by the CSO, followed by the Senate.
“Even before the Aquino administration, the call for substantive reforms to make autonomy genuine has been issued. Answer first unresolved governance and justice issues, such as the Ampatuan massacre, before another exhaustive electoral exercise,” said Engr. Salic Ibrahim, chairperson of Reform ARMM Now (RAN), a coalition of civil society groups in the region.

“President Aquino is dead serious in reforming ARMM which can’t be done if the status quo continues. Definitely the President wants the elections postponed,” said Secretary Ronald Llamas, Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs.

“We are also set to file a petition in the Senate to investigate massive anomalies in the ARMM regional government,” said Lowell Macabangen, a former ARMM employee whose terminal leave pay was withdrawn without his knowledge.

The ARMM employees have complained about delayed salaries and allowances under the present ARMM government.

“With the fate of the elections hanging, there is a state of disarray in the ARMM regional government and governance has been affected with us in the receiving end,” complained Rey Pelaez, President of the ARMM Employees Union.

“The Senate should act on the bill with dispatch to allay the fears and anxiety gripping ARMM,” said Pelaez.

Meanwhile Secretary Jesse Robredo disclosed that the ongoing audit of ARMM on alleged misuse of P28-B funds from 2008-2010 is just the tip of the iceberg.

Other anomalies include the non-remittance of GSIS contribution of teachers and of municipal local governments.

“If elections push through, vested interests of those who will come to power will naturally resist the reforms already initiated,” said Robredo.

The RAN coalition said it would launch a massive lobby with senators to push for the ARMM synchronization. They are targeting Senator Miguel Zubiri who is from Mindanao and Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., the head of the Senate committee on local government that is hearing the bill filed by Drilon.

“We will hold a vigil camp-out within the Senate premises when session resumes,” said Ibrahim.