Supreme Court affirms ARMM poll postponement

from NAMFREL Election Monitor Vol.2, No.22

Voting 8-7, the Supreme Court ruled on October 18 that the law synchronizing the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with regular elections, is constitutional. Republic Act 10153, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Aquino in June, allows the President to appoint officers-in-charge (OICs) for the offices of the ARMM regional governor, vice-governor, and members of the regional legislative assembly, who "shall perform the functions pertaining to the said offices until the officials duly elected in the May 2013 elections shall have qualified and assumed office."

The petitioners were given 15 days though to answer the ruling before OICs could be appointed. Prior to the en banc ruling, the Supreme Court issued last month a temporary restraining order in response to petitions questioning the constitutionality of RA 10153, putting a temporary halt to the screening process for OICs. Under the law, the President will appoint 26 ARMM OICs, one each for regional
governor and vice governor, and 24 members of the regional legislative assembly.

In a statement, the President affirmed his purpose for seeking to synchronize the ARMM polls, originally scheduled for this month, with the 2013 general elections, which is to "break the cycle of impunity, corruption and poverty in the ARMM....The administration supported the bill to synchronize the ARMM elections with national elections in an effort to end the vicious cycle of abnormal elections where the mandate of the people is subverted by means of the command vote wielded by local political families...Command voting has contributed to the cycle of impunity, the results of which have been demonstrated in the region being bloodied by the reign of impunity, as witnessed by the
Maguindanao Massacre."

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes, Jr. also welcomed the decision, saying that because of the SC resolution, they will just use the Php 1.5 billion budget for the ARMM elections for their preparations for the 2013 synchronized elections.

While the decision was welcomed by the Palace as well as pro-administration lawmakers, some have expressed reservations and disappointment, including party-list representative Raymond Palatino, who believes that "the law violates the autonomy of the ARMM, and it's a dangerous re-imposition of imperial Manila rule over ARMM."

(Various news sources)