Quote for the Week..

"Why are the country’s political leaders quick to act on amending the Constitution to change nationalistic provisions for the benefit of foreigners or to extend their terms of office but are allergic to amending the Constitution to address the people’s aspirations for self-determination?" - Marvic Leonen,Dean of the UP College of Law, in a keynote address delivered at the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao; March 16-18, 2009 in Davao City, Philippines.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Measure to defer ARMM polls 'dead in the water' in Senate

An administration senator from Mindanao, who earlier expressed willingness to support a measure that would postpone the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, backed out on Tuesday after failing to get the support of other lawmakers.

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri said the move to postpone the election is "dead in the water in the Senate." He said that with only five session days left it is "logistically impossible" to amend the law setting the date of the ARMM election scheduled on August 11.

In the House of Representatives, a measure seeking the postponement of the election also suffered a setback after Mindanao lawmakers failed to agree to support the bill.

A two-hour, closed-door caucus by the Mindanao bloc led by Speaker Prospero Nograles failed to resolve the issue after only 14 lawmakers voted in favor of the postponement while 14 disagreed and five abstained.

The so-called Mindanao bloc in the House of Representatives has 57 members.

Nograles, however, said he would ask President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to certify the bill. After the caucus of the Mindanao bloc Tuesday afternoon Nograles met with congressmen from ARMM who agreed to move for the postponement.

“In my private meeting now with all the ARMM congressmen who are most directly affected, their unanimous decision is to move to postpone the elections," Nograles was quoted by news reports.

Time running out

Rep. Simeon Datumanong, deputy speaker for Mindanao who co-authored the bill, admitted that time is running out to pass the measure.

Rep. Ma. Isabelle Climaco of Zamboanga City, who is against of the deferment of the election, is confident that it will push through on August 11.

“I don’t think it will prosper because of lack of material time, hayaan na lamang natin sila na matuloy ang elections," Climaco said.

Hermogenes Esperon, presidential adviser for the peace process, was present during the caucus. He maintained that the postponement of the election in ARMM is necessary to give the government time to pursue the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“[The suspension of the election] will give us space and better time to discuss the final details of a peace agreement," Esperon said.

Earlier, Climaco and Cotabato Rep. Emmylou TaliƱo-Mendoza said the Commission on Elections has already spent P1 billion for the automation of the ARMM polls.

“The one billion peso has been released for Comelec. Do we just change the date set?" Climaco said. “We need a credible poll body and this is their chance to prove it to us," she added.

Mendoza said her province has become a victim of election-related violence because of the MILF demand.

“I'm not in favor for the postponement in sympathy to my constituents in Cotabato, particularly the municipalities of Aleosan, Midsayap and Pikit that suffered the most in terms of civilian casualties," she said.

Arroyo silent

During President Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address on Monday, she pitched the peace accord with the MILF but chose to remain silent on the ARMM elections postponement.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said Zubiri's backtracking was an apparent realization that the Palace cannot force the issue.

“It looks like [President Arroyo] realized she can’t just please Esperon at the expense of public interest," Pimentel said.

Pimentel, who had allied himself with those against the postponement of the election, said the plan to postpone the ARMM polls could be a ploy to extend the terms of those who are abusing their office and the good ones who want to serve will be prevented from being elected because there will be no elections.

“Secondly, people must remember that the ARMM election is intended to provide the venue for the testing of the computer program of the electoral process," he added.

“If you postpone the elections now, when will we be able to test the machines in preparation of 2010? Are they saying that they will also postpone the 2010 elections or maybe the same things that happened in the past - regarding cheating in the elections - will happen again in the 2010," he said.

Zubiri said he had consulted with his colleagues in the Senate and 90 percent of them are against the postponement. Besides, he said, the ARMM election is only two weeks away.

The United Opposition earlier said President Arroyo's call to suspend the ARMM election was part of a grand scheme to amend the Constitution to extend her term.

UNO spokesman Adel Tamano said President Arroyo’s claim that the postponement of the ARMM election is part of the peace negotiations with the MILF could actually be "the first step in a grand scheme to amend the Constitution."

"Unfortunately, even for the MILF, [Arroyo] has not been negotiating in good faith because the proposed creation of a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity will ultimately entail an amendment of the Philippine Constitution, which will be the means to allow [Arroyo] to stay in power," Tamano said. - (GMANews.TV)

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