ARMM poll resetting will purge 300,000 ‘ghost registrants’? PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 13 March 2011 17:32

Mayors in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao are convinced resetting the ARMM’s supposed elections in August to 2013 is essential in purging estimated 300,000 “ghost registrants” in the area’s list of voters and in dismantling private armies being employed by local political clans as preparations for the next regional electoral exercise.

Local officials from the ARMM’s island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi said they are to discuss these concerns with members of the House of Representatives during today’s (March 13) public hearing in Zamboanga City on HB 4146 which seeks to postpone the August electoral exercise in the autonomous region.

ARMM insiders, among them directorate staffers of line agencies devolved by the regional government, said most of the more than 100 mayors and five provincial governors in the region are not opposed to any postponement of the supposed August regional polls.

A Tausog education official told reporters during Thursday’s public hearing here on the intricacies of HB 4146 that one major concern that has to be discussed in the consultations is the need for ample time for the Commission on Elections and the National Statistics Office to mutually help one another in cleansing the region’s list of voters of estimated 300,000 fictitious names.

“We support President Aquino’s objective of injecting reforms into the ARMM bureaucracy and political framework and so we also want the region’s electoral system be overhauled sensibly to correct the impression that the ARMM is the electoral cheating capital of the Philippines,” the education official said.

Sulu Gov. Hadji Sakur Tan, who has been ranting on what is for him “ill-governance of ARMM” since it was created through a plebiscite in 1990, said he and most of his constituents are for the resetting of this year’s regional elections to 2013.

Tan also expressed support to Malacañang’s intention of appointing caretakers for ARMM if the tenure of incumbent officials expires on September this year.

Peace activists involved in foreign-assisted peace-building activities in the autonomous region are certain a deferment of the supposed August ARMM elections can also give the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front enough time to successfully wind up with the 12 year-old GPH-MILF talks.

The MILF wants to govern the areas covered by the ARMM, where it has dozens of duly-acknowledged enclaves, but through its proposed mechanism that has more comprehensive political and administrative powers, including control of strategic minerals and other high value resources.

A key member of the Moro royalty, Mayor Datu Tucao Mastura of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, said resetting the supposed elections in the autonomous region this year to 2013 can give the Aquino administration, the MILF and Congress sufficient time to amend the ARMM’s charter to become parallel with the concepts of self-governance envisioned by Southern Muslim rebel groups and the area’s indigenous communities.

“Let us grab every opportunity of improving the ARMM according to the people’s aspirations of genuine Moro autonomy. If the August election in the region is delayed for two years or more, we can have the chance of fixing all of its perceived political and administrative defects,” said Mastura, who is the provincial chairman of the Liberal Party in Maguindanao.

Regional officials said most of the groups opposing the postponement of the regional electoral exercises are from outside of the autonomous region and have no direct interest on the ramifications of the issue.

Maguindanao Rep. Bai Sandra Sema, one of the proponents of House Bill 4146, which seeks to synchronize the ARMM’s August electoral exercise with the 2013 local and senatorial elections, said even officials and ordinary members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which signed a peace pact with government on September 2, 1996, supports the proposed law.

Maguindanao’s incumbent governor, Esmael Mangudadatu, told participants to Thursday’s public hearing on HB 4146 that he is convinced that holding the regional elections simultaneous with the 2013 local and senatorial polls can “greatly minimize” electoral fraud in the autonomous region. — Felix Ostrea