Bill postponing ARMM election shelved, then retrieved

from NAMFREL Election Monitor Vol.2, No.13

After the Senate Committee on Local Government, upon holding several consultations with stakeholders, concluded that the bills seeking to postpone the ARMM elections violate ARMM's autonomy, and after the Committee had submitted its report that was unfavorable to the proposed bills, the Senate, during its plenary on May 31, sent the bills to its archives. However, just a few minutes after the shelving, several Senators, including Committee chair Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., moved that the bills be revived and placed on the Senate calendar to be deliberated on further.

Section 30 of the Senate Rules indicate that "if the reports submitted are unfavorable, they shall be transmitted to the Archives of the Senate together with the matters to which they refer, unless five (5) senators shall in the following session move for their inclusion in the Calendar for Ordinary Business, in which case the President shall so order." It was Marcos who made the manifestation to revive the bill, supported by Senators Antonio Trillanes IV, Francis Pangilinan, Teofisto Guingona III, Sergio Osmena, and Vicente Sotto. Sen. Franklin Drilon, author of one of the bills (SB 2756), immediately sponsored the measure. Marcos said he was not contradicting his previous stand against the proposed postponement. "I have belief in the argument and findings we have. It must be subject to debate on the floor. We must not stifle public debate," he said. In a privilege speech during the session, Marcos said the proposals are "ill-advised and untimely."

Earlier in the day, the Senate committees on Local Government and Constitutional Amendments held their last consultation hearing on the ARMM poll postponement, with Comelec chairperson Sixto Brillantes, Jr. as resource person, as well as DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, and presidential advisers Teresita Deles and Ronaldo Llamas.
During the consultation hearing, Senator Francis Escudero wanted to know from the representatives of the administration whether the selection committee for the proposed Officer-In-Charge (OIC) for ARMM have already come up with their criteria; who will compose the committee; how open and transparent the selection process would be; and whether the administration already have a person in mind as OIC. The resource persons replied that the selection committee has not been composed; that no person has been selected so far; and that the guidelines for selection has already been drafted but not yet finalized. They assured though that the selection would be inclusive, participative and transparent.
Escudero also pointed out a flaw in the proposals. Under the two proposals, the term of office of the regional governor, vice governor and members of the regional legislative assembly of the ARMM shall last for three years, beginning September 30 following the day of the election, and ending at noon of the same date three years after. Escudero said that this contradicts the purpose (and title) of the bills, which is to synchronize the election and terms of office of ARMM officials, with that of national and other local officials, conducted in May of election years. Robredo responded that they only wanted to synchronize the elections and not amend the terms of office of the elected officials, and suggested that the tite of the bills be amended. Sen. Marcos said that a possible compromise would be to hold the August election as scheduled, and then later on move to amend the law to have the ARMM elections synchronized with the general elections, since the main purpose of the bills is to have the polls synchronized.

Another contentious issue that arose during the hearing was the eligibility of the proposed appointed OIC to run as candidate in the ARMM election in 2013 if synchronized. Section 6 of the proposed bills prohibits the OIC to run for election. However, during the hearing, Secretary Llamas stated that the appointee could not be banned from running in 2013 because that would require amending the ARMM Organic Act. The senators were concerned that the OIC would use his time in office to wield influence if this would be the case. They sought
clarification, saying that the bills they read did not contain this provision. Malacanang clarified the issue In a statement it released later in the day, stating:

“'Section 6 of the proposed bill clearly provides that any OICs the President will appoint to ARMM will be ineligible to run in the regional elections set for 2013...The Executive insisted on this provision precisely to avoid granting any undue advantage to the OICs. In the event that such a provision is not enacted by Congress in the final version of the bill...'alternative measures' will be taken by the President to enforce the prohibition. All nominees will be required to execute a written undertaking not to run in the 2013 elections in the event they are
appointed...Those appointed as OICs can even be made to publicly sign a covenant that they will not run.”

Senator Miguel Zubiri also expressed his concern that approving the postponement and allowing the President to appoint an OIC would give a legislative precedence for future Presidents. "What if the next administration would not be as reform-minded as this administration?," Zubiri asked. There is now a race against time to finally come to a conclusion whether the ARMM polls would be held as acheduled or postponed. Senate and Congress are scheduled to have their recess starting on June 10, and Comelec has set an internal deadline of June 15 to start preparing for a manual ARMM election to be held two months from now.

Read Senate Bill No. 2756 here: http://bit.ly/kanaKq
Read House Bill No. 4146 here: http://bit.ly/iTp139
Read the ARMM Organic Act here: http://bit.ly/kyp9nI
(Sources: Namfrel, various news sources)