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ARMM polls postponement remains challenged

from NAMFREL Election Monitor Vol.2, No.16

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The Supreme Court (SC) required the Office of the President (OP) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to comment within 10 days on the oppositions challenging Republic Act 10153, a law postponing the August 8, 2011 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Last week, House Minority Leader Rep. Edcel C. Lagman filed a petition contending the RA 10153 by enumerating certain infirmities in the law that postponed the ARMM polls. He cited that the law “violated and vitiated all the built-in safeguards of autonomy of ARMM.” Lagman’s petition also said that the law “violated the constitutional guaranty of elective officials in the ARMM” and it is an “unconstitutional expansion of the limited power of the President” of the ARMM’s general supervision. The representative from Albay further added that the
law deprives ARMM constituents of their autonomy.

He also questioned the validity of the enactment of the law since the Senate was not able to gather a two-thirds vote for the bill’s passage.
Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, in his petition, argued that ARMM’s autonomy is neglected by postponing the ARMM elections to synchronize it with the 2013 national and local elections. He also said in his petition that the appointment of officers-in-charge is unconstitutional, as the will-be officers-in-charge of the ARMM were not duly elected by the voters but were picked by the President in exchange of their loyalty.

Macalintal further added that “the new law still needs approval by the ARMM voters in a plebiscite,” therefore it is not effective yet.
A group of Muslim leaders and prominent politicians in Mindanao also filed a petition before the SC urging the high court to issue a temporary restraining order against the implementation of the postponement law. Among those who joined the group are former Tawi-Tawi governor Almarin Centi Tillah, Prof. Datu Casan Conding Cana and PDP Laban president Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III. The group alleged that RA 10153 “is an encroachment of the political autonomy of the ARMM,” and this has violated provisions in the constitution that limits the President’s power to mere general supervision, and disallows the chief executive to have control over the ARMM.

The three petitions that were filed separately before the SC urged the high court to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the implementation of the law postponing the ARMM elections. The SC gave the OP and the Comelec a non-extendible period of ten days to give their comment on the petitions intended to allow the elections in the ARMM to push through in August this year.
(Various news sources)
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