Group to back reelection bid of senators opposed to resetting of ARMM poll PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 21 March 2011 16:10

Moro sectors opposed to House Bill 4146 have promised to support the candidacy of senators who are to seek re-election in 2013 if they are to stand against the postponement of the August elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

HB 4146 aims not just to synchronize the ARMM polls with the simultaneous 2013 local and national elections, but to empower as well President Aquino to appoint regional caretakers if the term of incumbent officials end on September 30 this year.

In a statement, the Alliance of Regional Coalitions against People’s Poverty (ARCAPP) and a dozen affiliate groups assured yesterday to campaign for senators who would seek re-election in 2013 if they help block the passage of HB 4146.

“Any individual or group who is opposed this proposal is pro-Muslim autonomy and, therefore, deserves to be recognized as an ally of Muslims sectors wanting genuine autonomy to grow strong in Southern Mindanao,” said ARCAPP’s convenor, lawyer Bayan Balt, an ethnic Maranaw, who hails from Lanao del Sur.

ARCAPP called last week on Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. to “pull out” HB 4146 ,insisting that it can only weaken Muslim autonomy, which was established for Mindanao’s Moro sectors for them to freely govern their community and choose their leaders through a democratic process.

In a letter to the leaders of Congress last Monday, President Aquino certified as urgent House Bill 4146, postponing the ARMM elections set in August and synchronizing it with the mid-term elections of 2013.

The President said that the bill would “address the urgent need to protect and strengthen the ARMM’s autonomy by synchronizing its elections with the regular elections of national and other local officials, to ensure that the ongoing peace talks in the region will not be hindered and to provide a mechanism to institutionalize electoral reforms in the interim, all for the development, peace and security of the region.”

Members of the ARMM’s 24-seat Regional Assembly, dubbed as the region’s “little Malacanang,” have also vowed to campaign for senators seeking re-election in 2013 if they stand against HB 4146.

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chairman of the Senate committee on local government, earlier appealed to  Malacañang to stay away from ARMM politics and give due respect to the region’s autonomous status.

Sen. Francis Escudero said that the postponement of the ARMM elections would require a plebiscite and only after the bill secures two-thirds vote of Congress, voting separately.

Moro leaders in Cotabato City said they are elated with the Thursday’s announcement here by Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri that the bill seeking the postponement of the ARMM polls has a “very slim chance” of passing in the Senate.

“It was like music to our ears,” a Catholic priest oppose to HB 4146 told reporters in a text message.
More than a dozen non-government organizations here, among the Institute on Autonomy and Governance, which is bankrolled by Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, are campaigning strongly against HB 4146.

Sen. Joker Arroyo also expressed his opposition to the measure because it would go against the autonomy of the region.

Former senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., the principal author of the ARMM law, said that the move of the Palace would “deny the people of the region the right to elect their own leaders.”

“This will erode rather than strengthen the foundations of our democracy. Regular elections are an indispensable hallmark of a functional democracy. Postpone elections and you curtail the right of suffrage of the people,” Pimentel said. — Felix Ostrea