President Aquino signs ARMM poll postponement law;

SC asked to nullify said law

from NAMFREL Election Monitor Vol.2, No.15

President Aquino signed on June 30 the law postponing the election in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Republic Act No. 10153 synchronizes the ARMM elections with the national mid-term elections in May 2013.

Despite opposition from lawmakers and civil society organizations and citizens both inside and outside the ARMM, the President aggressively pushed in the House and Senate for the passing of the bills that were eventually consolidated and signed into law. Malacañang said the synchronization of the ARMM elections with the national polls would be the first step to ensure peace and stability in the region, allowing the government time and opportunity to implement reforms in the ARMM.

Minutes after the signing, House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman filed a petition before the Supreme Court to nullify the ARMM poll synchronization law, citing the following reasons:
1. Violation of the constitutional guaranty of elective and representative regional officials in ARMM with the deferment of elections for almost two years and the installation of officers-in-charge (OIC);
2. Unconstitutional expansion of the President’s limited power of general supervision over ARMM officials to the more potent power of control which is inherent in the appointment and dismissal of OICs;
3. Failure of the Senate to garner a 2/3 vote which is required by the Organic Act, as amended, to make valid the amendments introduced in R.A. No. 10153;
4. Failure to provide for the holding of the mandatory plebiscite for the ratification of the amendments contained in R.A. 10153;
5. Denial of the right of suffrage to ARMM voters for a long period in violation of the safeguard on
periodic and popular elections; and
6. Setting aside of the holdover of incumbents until their successors are elected and qualified
as provided for in the Organic Act, as amended, in order to give way to officers-in-charge.
Respondents include Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. The petition also seeks to have the Commission on Elections (Comelec)
resume operations for the preparation of the polls for August.

Last week, former Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. had vowed to join others to question before the Supreme Court any ARMM postponement law. In previous weeks, two petitioners filed a petition questioning the constitutionality of moves to postpone the region polls but
the high court did not act on it since a law had not been signed.

Given this looming impasse, it would be prudent for Comelec to still prepare and maintain its state of readiness for any eventuality.

(Source: ABS-CBN News, Interaksyon)