Noel Castorillo: Why the special interest on ARMM?

The Aquino government appears hell bent in pushing for replacing with its own choice of people the leaders who will run the affairs of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao until the mandated synchronized elections in the region in 2013 as provided for in Republic Act 10153.

Apparently in defiance of the Temporary Restraining Order issued by the Supreme Court blocking the implementation of the said law, Local Government and Interior Secretary Jesse M. Robredo is proceeding with his selection process for caretaker officials of the ARMM.

Secretary Robredo justified his continuation of the selection process by saying that the High Court’s TRO did not specify that the government should also refrain from screening the people that will be appointed as officersin- charge in the region when the incumbents’ term of office expires on September 30.

“The TRO did not bar us from continuing with the screening process; hence, we will resume the pre-selection activities,” he said in a statement.

Republic Act 10153 empowers the President to appoint OICs in the region, including the regional governor, vice governor and the 24 members of the Regional Legislative Assembly once their respective terms of office expire at the end of this month.

They will serve until the winning candidates for the respective posts they would be in charge of shall have been proclaimed by the Commission on Elections and subsequently sworn to office.

The synchronized elections will be held in May 2013 should the High Court finally declare Republic Act 10153 as constitutional.

Appointment of OICs to the ARMM elective posts is reminiscent of the first official act of then President Corazon C. Aquino when she was swept into power following the overthrow of then President Ferdinand E. Marcos via a popularly backed politico-military coup in 1986.

This act by the late icon of democracy at the time did not sit well with the people, particularly, in the constituencies of those local officials who elected their own local leaders.

A major criticism to this act by Mrs. Aquino, mother of incumbent president, was that it was used by those politicians who could not win in a fair and square elections to sit in the elective posts just by showing their political loyalty to the lady president and/or to the political groups responsible for her ascendancy to the presidency.

While there’s ample reason to believe that the incumbent ARMM elected officials, including the present governor, who took over the post of governor Zaldy Ampatuan, who was removed from the governorship of the ARMM on account of his alleged involvement in the Maguindanao massacre –also called the Ampatuan Massacre because it occurred in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao—were not the true choices of the people in the region but were elected to power through the influence of money and fear by the Ampatuans, the act of replacing elective officials through appointment of OICs is anathema to democratic principles to which our political system adheres to.

No amount of “dramatic reforms in the region” being promised by Secretary Robredo to justify his selection of OICs in the region will justify the means to that end.

The Aquino government is poised to file a motion for reconsideration with the Supreme Court and expressed optimism that the TRO would be lifted.

Why not push for ARMM elections instead, and put the safeguards against cheating or acts that will thwart the true will of the people in the region.

Appointing an OIC to an elective post by the president, even with the mandate of a legal fiat, as provided for by Republic 10153, is unconstitutional.

This is an exercise of absolute power, and the exercise of such power when allowed unrestrained, will pave the way for absolute corruption.


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