Reform ARMM Now is a broad coalition of civil society organizations in the ARMM and Mindanao that is advocating for a thorough overhaul of ARMM's political-administrative structures, a review of national-ARMM policies, and supportive of the peace process.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

RAN in the News: ABS-CBN News--Civil society bats for ARMM polls' postponement

Civil society bats for ARMM polls' postponement

Posted at 03/16/2011 12:37 PM | Updated as of 03/16/2011 12:37 PM



MANILA, Philippines - Civil society figures from Muslim Mindanao on Thursday tried to rally support for the postponement of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao elections scheduled for August 2011.

Salic Ibrahim, Lowell Macabangon, Tom Villarin and Dr. Darvin Rasul III led the groups Reform ARMM Now and SIMCard as well as other groups in asking lawmakers to instead synchronize the regional elections with the 2013 midterm elections.

Villarin said synchronization follows the constitutional mandate of synchronized midterm and local elections. It will also give the Aquino administration time to institute reforms that will promote peace in Mindanao.

Villarin also lashed out at lawmakers opposed to the postponement, whom he alleged  as people opposed to reform and identified with former president and now Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He dispelled fears the Aquino administration will only appoint its protégés as officers in charge of the ARMM should the synchronization lead to the postponement of the 2011 regional elections.

Villarin said postponement alone would have legal problems, since postponement would not be bound to any timetable and would really require amendments to the ARMM Law.

Datu Lowell Macabangon said consultations in Mindanao showed support for the synchronization. He also criticized lawmakers whom he said have conflicts of interest in opposing the bill.

Macabangon blamed ARMM politicians for standing in the way of progress for the last 21 years and said some lawmakers stood to gain from the non-postponement of the elections.

Lanao del Sur. Rep Pangalian Balindong’s nephew is the current acting ARMM Governor, Ansarrudin Adiong.

He said Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong maybe standing in the way of cleansing the voters list of Maguindanao.

He said ALIF party-list Rep. Ahmad  Tomawis has a brother who is the current executive director of the Southern Philippines Development Authority.

Rasul said the ARMM regional assembly alone will not be empowered enough to reset their own elections, hence the need for an act of Congress. All these, he said, is in the name of reforming and cleaning up the bureaucracy. #

URL: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/regions/03/16/11/civil-society-bats-armm-polls-postponement 

The Proposed Act Providing for the Synchronization the Elections and Term of Office of the Elective Officials of the ARMM

Draft copy
FIFTEENTH CONGRESS OF THE
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES
First Regular Session

SENATE
S.B. No._________


INTRODUCED BY:

EXPLANATORY NOTE
On August 2011, elections are to be held again in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to elect a regional governor, vice-governor and 24 assemblymen for the Regional Legislative Assembly.  This would be the 8th election in the ARMM since it was formed in 1989.  Under the 1987 Constitution, an autonomous region is to be created in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras by Congress. ARMM is by nature a local government unit, it being a territorial and political subdivision of the Philippines. It is created by law under then RA 6734 and later amended under RA 9054 or the Organic Act of Muslim Mindanao. 
While RA 9054 was supposed to be the fruit of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Moro National Liberation Front and the government, the MNLF has now rejected it. The MNLF and government are now reviewing the 1996 Final Peace Agreement under a Tripartite Review Panel together with the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). On its part, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front  (MILF) which is engaged with its own peace talks with the government does not recognize autonomy and is calling for the creation of a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity as a ‘sub-state’ within the orbit of the Philippine republic.  The Supreme Court in 2008, however, declared as unconstitutional a so-called Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) initialed by the two panels in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The MOA-AD ‘committed’ the Philippines to provide an enlarged area or territory for the Bangsamoro including some 720 barangays or villages outside ARMM upon the signing of a comprehensive compact to happen within one year thereafter.
ARMM’s creation has been a highly political and sensitive issue among the Moros or the native inhabitants of Mindanao. There are three major peace treaties that the government has entered with the Bangsamoro thru the MNLF, namely the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, the 1986 Jeddah Accord, and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA).  All these agreements have not proved to address the basic issue of the right to self-determination of the Bangsamoro.
Studies have shown how the weaknesses in governance in a post-conflict condition after the signing of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with Nur Misuari did not reduce rebellion-related violence. The regional autonomous government was neither autonomous nor capable of governing from the start. The ARMM was weak and unable to deliver basic programs and services in key areas such as health care and education. Tax and revenue-generating power was inadequate, and the ARMM was beset by numerous and increasing cases of graft and corruption.

In addition, the expanded ARMM under RA 9054 as passed by Congress in 2001 did not wield effective command over the local police and armed forces.  The failure to monopolize the state’s coercive power meant that the regional government had very little influence over the provision of security and the direction of internal security reforms. The ARMM could not even play an active part in preventing rido and other community-level conflicts.  Part of the reason behind the failure of the post-1996 ARMM government was the absence of genuine powers required by the regional executive office and the regional assembly in such important areas as fiscal autonomy that remained under control of the national government. While these powers should have been devolved to ARMM as contained in the 1996 FPA, these provisions were effectively blocked in Congress.

Postponement of ARMM elections is not without precedent.  In fact, in the post-1996 FPA there were several legislative measures that moved the ARMM elections to pave the way for the amendment of the 1989 ARMM organic and later the revised Organic Act (RA 9054). These are Republic Acts Nos. 8176, 8746, 8753, 8953, 9012, 9054, 9140, and 9333. The first postponement of the ARMM elections, however, was not after the signing of the 1996 peace pact but just before: RA 8176 changed the date of the ARMM elections and was signed into law by then President Fidel Ramos on December 29, 1995. The third ARMM election was supposed to have been held March 1996. The law reset the polls to September that same year, giving the negotiators six months leeway.
Another postponement came when Congress during the time of President Joseph Estrada had to move the elections to the second Monday of September 2000 (RA 8753) as the amendments to the Organic Act of Muslim Mindanao was not yet passed.  Still when September 2000 came and no law was yet passed, the elections were again moved to “coincide with the general elections to be held on the second Monday of May 2001” (RA 8953) purportedly with a view to synchronize it with the regular national and local elections. 
With the assumption of then vice-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as President in January 2001, Congress again in 2001 voted to move the ARMM elections to September 2001 (RA 9012).  It was also during that time that RA 9054, the “Act to Strengthen and Expand the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act No, 6734, Entitled An Act Providing for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’, As Amended” was passed unnoticed. Congress also passed a law setting the plebiscite for a ‘expanded ARMM’ in August 2001 and moved the ARMM elections to the last Monday of November 2001 (RA 9140). Later, Congress passed another law postponing the ARMM elections to the second Monday of September 2005 (RA 9333) instead of September 2004.
In view of the foregoing, the passage of the bill is earnestly sought.


Draft copy
FIFTEENTH REGULAR CONGRESS
OF THE PHILIPPINES
First Regular Session


Senate Bill No. ______

An Act Providing for the Synchronization the Elections and Term of Office of the Elective Officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with those of the National and Local Officials, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 9333, Entitled “An Act Fixing the Date for Regular Elections for Elective Officials of the ARMM, and for Other Purposes”

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Philippines in Congress assembled.


SECTION 1. Date of Elections – For purposes of synchronization of elections envisioned under the 1987 Constitution, the regular election for Regional Governor; Regional Vice-Governor and Members of the Regional Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) shall be held on the second Monday of May 2013. Succeeding regular elections shall be held on the same date every three years thereafter.

SECTION 2. Term of Office - The term of office of the Regional Governor, Regional Vice Governor and Membcrs of the Regional Legislative Assembly of the ARMM shall be for a period of three years, which shall commence at noon on the thirtieth (30th) day of June 2013 and shall end at noon of the same date three (3) years thereafter.

SECTION 3. End of term of Office of the Incumbent Elective Officials of the ARMM – Pursuant to the term limits fixed under the 1987 Constitution mandated under Section 8, Article 10,  all the incumbent elective officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao elected in the second regular election under RA 9333 shall hold office only until noon of the thirtieth (30th) day of September 2011.

SECTION 4.  Appointment of Officers-in-charge – Under a transitory period brought upon by the synchronization of the ARMM elections with the regular elections in May 2013, to avoid a vacancy that will be created when the term of office of office of incumbent officials in ARMM expires at noon on the thirtieth (30th) day of September 2011, the President of the Republic of the Philippines shall appoint officers-in-charge who will take over the functions of the incumbent elective officials of the ARMM whose term ends on the thirtieth day of September 2011.

SECTION 5. Qualifications  - No person shall be appointed as officer-in-charge unless he or she complies with the qualifications of the Regional Governor, Regional Vice-Governor, or members of the Regional Legislative Assembly, as provided under Republic Act No. 9054, entitled “An Act to Strengthen and Expand the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Amending for the Purpose, Republic Act No. 6734, Entitled “An Act Providing for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, as Amended.”

SECTION 6.  Inelegibility of Appointed Officers-in-Charge – Appointed officers-in-charge referred to in Section 5 above shall be ineligible to run as candidate for elective posts in the next regular elections of the ARMM either as Regional Governor, Regional Vice-Governor, and as a member of the Regional Legislative Assembly on the second Monday of May 2013.

SECTION 7.  Study and Review of the Organic Act for Muslim Mindanao – the appointed officers-in-charge of the Regional Legislative Assembly of the ARMM shall conduct a study and review of Republic Act No. 9054 and submit recommendations to the Congress of the Philippines within six months from their assumption into office.

SECTION. 8. Repealing Clause. - All laws, decrees, orders, rules and regulations, and other issuances or parts thereof which are inconsistent with this Act,, are hereby repealed, amended or modified accordingly.

SECTION 6. Effectivity Clause - This Act shall take effect immediately upon the completion of its publication in a newspaper of general circulation.

Approved,

Resolution of the Organization of Téduray and Lambangian Conference (OTLAC)

ORGANIZATION OF TÉDURAY AND LAMBANGIAN CONFERENCE COUNCIL  (OTLAC-COUNCIL) RESOLUTION URGING HIS EXCELLENCY BENIGNO SEMION COJUANGCO AGUINO, III, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES THROUGH CONGRESS TO IN ACT A LAW FOR THE SYNCHRONIZATION OF ARMM ELECTION ON 2013 AND DESIGNATE O.I.C WHO HAS THE STRONG FOUNDATION ON GOOD GOVERNANCE AND GOOD TRACK RECORD TO INTRODUCE REFORM IN THE AUTONOMOUS REGION IN MUSLIM MINDANAO (ARMM) FOR THE PERIOD OF 21 MONTHS FROM OCTOBER 1, 2011.  


WHEREAS, Organization of Téduray and Lambangian Conference (OTLAC), is a regional coalition of the Indigenous Peoples specifically belonging to the Téduray, Lambangian Tribes of South Central Mindanao and portion of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao including Cotabato City;

WHEREAS; the Council meeting included as one major item in the agenda, a need to have a Synchronization of Election of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in order for the government to save big amount of money and introduce executive and legislative reform agenda within the 21 months starting October 1, 2011;     


WHEREAS; President of the Republic of the Philippines shall designates Officer In Charge (OIC), to run the affairs of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) within the period of 21 months beginning October 1, 2011;  

WHEREAS; a motion from Timuay Sergio A. Belling, Sr. Vice Chairperson for internal affairs that OTLAC needs to formulate a resolution urging His Excellency Benigno Semion Conjuangco Aquino, III through Congress to in act a law for the synchronization of ARMM election in 2013 and unanimously seconded by Council member Timuay Froilan Pangol;

RESOLVED, AS IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED, urging His Excellency Benigno Semion Conjuangco Aquino, III, President of the Republic of the Philippines through Congress to in act a law for the synchronization of election of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in 2013 and designate Officer In-Charge who has the strong foundation of good governance and good track record to introduce executive and legislative reform agenda in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) for the period of 21 months beginning October 1, 2011;

RESOLVED FURTHERE, copies of this resolution be forwarded to the Office of the President, Speaker of the House of Representative, Senate Speaker and to the sponsored of the postponement of ARMM election;

ADOPTED AND APPROVED; this 5 day of March 2011 at Nuro, Upi, Maguindanao,

WE HEREBY CERTIFY to the correctness of this resolution and affixed our signatures.


Prepared by:



(SGD) TIMUAY HILARIO TANZO
      Deputy Secretary General



Noted by:



(SGD) DEONATO P. MOKUDEF            (SGD) TIMUAY MELANIO U. ULAMA
              Secretary General                                       Chairperson 

Monday, March 14, 2011

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON THE ARMM ELECTION POSTPONEMENT ISSUE

1. Why do we want the elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) slated August 2011 be postponed?
Elections need to be postponed because of the following reasons:
a.
need to synchronize local and national elections as mandated in the 1987 Constitution. Having the ARMM elections separately will not only be inconsistent with such mandate but will entail additional cost to taxpayers;
b.
need to institute electoral reforms in the ARMM that has been constantly plagued by electoral violence, massive fraud, vote-buying, kidnapping, etc. Comelec needs time to cleanse the voters’ list and institute safeguards in the ballots and for the voters’ will to be protected;
c.
must give way to the peace process that is ongoing between the government and the Moro rebel groups to provide focus and imperatives to achieving sustainable peace.

2. What other compelling reasons why we need to postpone the ARMM polls?

If elections are to push through in August 2011, we will see the same ‘warlords’ dominating the scene. If we recall, the November 2009 massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao was election-related violence as those murdered were supposed to file certificates of candidacies for the Mangudadatus against the Ampatuans. Already incidence of violent crimes possibly related to election ‘preparations’ like kidnapping, arms procurement, etc are on the rise.
The May 2010 elections and the October 2010 barangay elections in the ARMM saw heightened violence and fraud that Comelec needs to address first before elections are held again in ARMM. Such argument for postponement were recommended by the Parish-Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting and the Citizens Coalition for ARMM Electoral Reforms or C-CARE, an electoral watchdog supported by the International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES). Yet Comelec has failed to act on such recommendations and now the ARMM elections will officially start by May 9, 2011 upon the filing of candidacy by prospective officials. The short period of time and the proven track record of Comelec of ineptitude in poll preparations compels the need for postponement.

3. Are there precedents in postponing the ARMM elections?

Postponement of ARMM elections is not without precedent. In fact, post-1996 FPA (Final Peace Agreement), there were several postponements precisely to pave the way for the amendment of the original ARMM organic act to incorporate the provisions of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA). Republic Act Nos. 8176, 8746, 8753, 8953, 9012, 9054, 9140, and 9333 were the laws passed by Congress on ARMM poll deferment.
The first postponement of the ARMM elections, however, was not after the signing of the 1996 peace pact but just before: RA 8176 changed the date of the ARMM elections and was signed into law by then President Fidel Ramos on December 29, 1995. The third ARMM election was supposed to have been held March 1996. The law reset the polls to September that same year, giving the negotiators six months leeway.
During President Gloria Macagapal-Arroyo’s time, three laws were passed postponing the ARMM elections. In February 2001, Congress passed RA 9012, resetting the supposed May 2001 elections in the ARMM to September 2001. Congress again passed RA 9140 in June 2001, setting the date of the plebiscite to August and the ARMM election for “the last Monday of November 2001. President Arroyo again signed RA No. 9333 on September 21, 2004, postponing the elections in the ARMM to the “second Monday of August 2005.

4. What is the governing law on elections in the ARMM? Is ARMM’s autonomy violated?

While it is argued that as an Organic Act RA 9054 (and its predecessor RA 6734) gives autonomy to the ARMM, the setting of elections is still vested with Congress under the 1987 Constitution. The regional government has no powers to fix the date of elections nor can it create an ARMM election commission to oversee it as both are powers not expressly granted to it by Congress (Section 20, Article 10). All powers, functions and responsibilities not granted by the Constitution or by law to the autonomous regions shall be vested in the National Government (Section 17, Article 10).
Thus, it cannot be invoked that the autonomy provisions under the 1987 Constitution nor the law providing for ARMM autonomy are violated
In fact, we had two laws passed by Congress resetting the ARMM elections even after RA 9054 was passed in March 2001. Both laws did not go through a plebiscite as Congress exercises the right to fix date of elections.
The law fixing the date of ARMM elections is RA 9333 that provides for the holding of elections on August 2005 and every three years thereafter. Thus, what will be amended is RA 9333 and not the Organic Act or RA 9054.
The argument that RA 9333 expired has no legal basis. Laws are permanent in nature and only another law amending or revoking it can change it.

5. Is there a need for a plebiscite to reset the election in the ARMM?

There is no need for a plebiscite to reset the ARMM election as what will be amended is RA 9333 and not the Organic Act of the ARMM or RA 9054. Under RA 9054, any amendments to the organic law, should undergo a plebiscite.

6. Is the appointment of OICs in the ARMM constitutional?

Yes, on the basis that the President exercises residual powers as Chief Executive. Under the 1987 Constitution, Section 16, Article 10, the President shall exercise general supervision over autonomous regions to ensure that laws are faithfully executed. Executive power is vested in the President of the Philippines (Section 1, Article 7) and temporary appointments to executive positions can be made so as not to prejudice public service or endanger public safety (Section 15, Article 7).
However, having holdover officials or extending the terms of officials is deemed unconstitutional as the term of local officials, except barangay officials, which shall be determined by law shall be three years (Section 8, Article 10). Likewise, the Supreme Court has already ruled several times against having holdover officials.
If the proposal to have holdover officials will push through, we will have for the next two years the Ampatuan administration that was elected in 2008 still handling ARMM.

7. Are the people in the ARMM consulted over the moves to postpone the August 2011 elections?

Several consultations and forums were conducted by civil society organizations since after the barangay elections on October 2010 on what will be there position in the coming ARMM elections.
Citizen’s Coalition on ARMM electoral reforms of C-CARE, the leading election reform advocate in the ARMM called for the postponement of the ARMM elections, currently scheduled for August 2011, to be conducted together with the May 2013 national elections.
Citizen’s CARE principled position is that elections should be held regularly and periodically for democracy to function. However, after detailed discussions with ARMM citizens at Citizen CARE’s Ugnayan Tayo, local community consultative meetings, the reform group joins the majority of the citizens in calling for a postponement.
The scale of election fraud and violence in the ARMM remains high and requires more time and attention. Of note are:
  • Bombing in Marawi City during voters’ registration
  • Maguindanao Massacre during the filing of COCs
  • Other Violence during and after election day
  • Ongoing Vote buying and command voting before and on election day
    • Continued use of uncleansed voter’s lists, despite the existence of cleansed ones.
    • Citizen’s CARE believes that postponement would provide the following benefits:
  • Provide time to conduct a new general registration process of ARMM voters
  • The new leadership of COMELEC could use the breathing room provided by election postponement to fine-tune the automation law and process, and the use of automated registration system (AFIS) in the ARMM
  • Ample time for much-needed continuous voters’ education
  • The substantial funds saved through the synchronization of elections should be used to beef up much-needed election reform projects, such as BEI training, voter education, and registration
  • Citizen’s CARE is also hopeful that the GRP-MILF peace process will have made progress.

8. Who are the groups behind the moves to postpone the ARMM elections?

Aside from C-CARE and the PPCRV, broad coalitions of civil society organizations and people’s organizations are calling for the ARMM poll deferment.
This coalition under the Reform ARMM Now (RAN) counts the following groups: Bangsamoro Solidarity Movement (Bangsa), Bangsamoro Lawyers Network (BLN), Kadtuntaya Foundation Inc., Saligan-Mindanao, Bangsamoro Womens Forum for Peace and Development Inc., Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinRHAC), Maranao People’s Development Center (Maradeca), Siad in Mindanao Convergence for Asset Reform and Regional Development (Simcarrd), Solidarity for Peace and Equity-led Development (Speed), Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC), Balaod-Mindanao, among others.
Chairman Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has also supported the call for ARMM poll deferment.
In Congress, HB 4146 was filed by 54 lawmakers from the ARMM and from Mindanao as well as stalwarts of the Liberal Party calling for ARMM poll synchronization. Senator TG Guingona and Senator Frank Drilon will file a counterpart bill in the Senate.
President Aquino has likewise endorsed the ARMM poll deferment issue as one of the priority bills of the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC).
Prepared by: Reform ARMM Now (RAN) 

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON THE ARMM

1. What is the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)?

ARMM is a special local government unit established by law as mandated by the 1987 Constitution. Created in 1989 under RA 6734 and amended later in 2001 under RA 9054, it presently consists of the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Marawi City.
As a special autonomous region, ARMM receives an annual Internal Revenue Allotment of around P11-billion pesos. This IRA is separate from the IRA received by the five provinces, one city, 110 municipalities and almost a thousand barangays under the ARMM that roughly also totals the same amount of P9-B. Likewise, national line agencies that operate in ARMM also spend another P3-B in the region.
The ARMM likewise receives official development assistance at an average of P1-B annually from foreign donor agencies
However, total revenue generated in ARMM is placed at roughly at only P300-M annually.

2. Is the present ARMM the result of a peace agreement with government?

Yes, although the major party to that peace agreement, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has rejected RA 9054 saying it fell short of the provisions under the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.
Under the 1996 FPA, a two-step implementation package was proposed. The first step was the creation of the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) to undertake a 5-year transition period for the original 13 provinces under the 1976 Tripoli Agreement to be included in an expanded ARMM.
THE second phase is for a plebiscite to ask the 13 provinces (except four original) after five years whether they will join or not the expanded ARMM.
However, the SPCPD was rendered ineffective when Congress then rejected it led by the “Tres Marias” of Mindanao. It was created by a mere EO by then President Ramos with limited funds to deliver to the 13 provinces for them to opt to be included in the expanded ARMM.
While Misuari became the administration candidate and ran unopposed as ARMM regional governor in 1996 five days after the signing of the 1996 FPA, the MNLF was ill-prepared to take over the governance functions in ARMM. A new government under President Estrada took over in 1998 and waged war against the MILF in 2000. Misuari, now rejecting the ARMM, staged a short-lived rebellion in 2000 and later was captured and imprisoned in 2001.

3. Is ARMM a “failed experiment” as President Aquino now describes it?

ARMM is a constitutional prescription that was rejected by Moro rebel groups that wants autonomy according to their own terms and not prescribed by the Philippine state.
When the 1976 Tripoli Agreement was signed providing for autonomy with the powerful Organization of Islamic Conference as broker, Marcos unilaterally created two autonomous regions without consulting the MNLF. When Marcos was ousted, President Aquino then signed the 1987 Jeddah Accord through Sen Aquilino Pimentel that enhanced the 1976 Tripoli Agreement. President Cory Aquino at that time exercised both executive and legislative powers under the 1986 Freedom Constitution. Unfortunately, the Constitutional Commission tasked to draft the 1987 Constitution ‘institutionalized’ autonomy without the consent of the MNLF.
President Ramos at the twilight of his presidency succeeded in having the MNLF sign a peace agreement but never got Congress to support it. President Estrada renounced peace and waged an all-out war. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo through his then National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales succeeded in breaking up the MNLF and then later pursuing a policy of supporting ‘warlord clans’ through the Ampatuans that politically propped up her regime, thus ARMM getting the distinction of being the ‘cheating capital’ of the Philippines. Likewise, the Ampatuans were used as buffer in the fight by government against the MILF rebel groups by arming their militias and auxiliary units. The discovery of vast cache of munitions, ordnances and high-powered firearms in the possession of the Ampatuans after the Ampatuan massacre in 2009 grimly portrays such reality of ‘coddling by Malacanang’ of warlord clans.

4. What are the ills that plague ARMM?

In an ARMM Peace Summit last October 2010, there were 11 major issues identified by the ARMM government itself ranging from the limitations on the present autonomous law to dysfunctional governance down to the municipal and barangay governments. It identified leadership issues (e.g. no unifying figure, personality), splits in rebel fronts, existence of ridos (bloody clan feuds), selling or mortgaging of IRA to loan sharks, non-payment of GSIS, among others, that plague ARMM. Above all, the non-delivery of basic services and massive poverty besets the people of ARMM.
Several studies also pointed out the inherent weakness of ARMM as an experiment in autonomy. It posits the theory that governance – Philippines style, is not responsive nor suitable to ARMM who has been exposed to the sultanate system where datus wield political and moral powers over their constituents.

5. Are the Moro people deprived of democracy when elections are postponed this August 2011?

People in the ARMM are regularly having elections since ARMM was created. Almost every year, elections are held in ARMM ranging from the presidential, mid-term, barangay elections and now the regional elections. So, in every three-year term of elected officials, the first two years are election year while the third year will be preparations for another regular election.
What the ARMM people are deprived of are free, fair and genuine electoral systems. Right now, there is a need to overhaul the voters’ list. There is a need to conduct a general registration of voters through a census of the population and identifying actual residents and number of household present in the barangays. Registration must be done using a biometrics system of voters identification. Also, all of the voting precincts in ARMM should be GIS-mapped to prevent politicians and Comelec from just changing precincts or having people vote anywhere.
The present budget of Comelec that is around P1.2-B, including the unspent funds in the past elections, can be used for the badly needed electoral reforms in ARMM.
6. Is President Aquino ‘dictatorial’ when he made ARMM election synchronization a priority legislative agenda? What are the reforms that PNoy wants?
President Noynoy Aquino got overwhelming support from the ARMM electorate in the May 2010 elections just like his mother, the late President Cory Aquino, in the 1985 snap elections when she ran against the Marcos dictatorship inspite of the odds and despite the boycott staged by the national democratic Left (who incidentally in 2010 also did not support PNoy).
PNoy’s living legacy will be undoing the dysfunctions of ARMM and setting the right policy interventions including the overhaul of the RA 9054 or the Organic Act of ARMM. PNoy can continue the legacy of her mother, President Cory Aquino, when she vowed to institutionalize a responsive autonomous government under the 1987 Jeddah Accord she signed with the MNLF after President Cory’s unprecedented visit to Jolo, Sulu in January 1987 with only President Noynoy as his bodyguard. Unfortunately, Congress then did not push through with her vision for ARMM and gave a lame autonomy to the Bangsamoro that is now being rejected by the people it purportedly wants to serve.
Now PNoy is calling on this Congress to support him in a quest for drastic reforms starting with the ARMM Synchronization Law that is now before us. With postponement, the Comelec can now have enough time and resources to ensure that the voters’ list be purged to pave the way for a regional census of population and a general registration of voters using the biometrics system of identification. With P1.2-B in savings if elections in ARMM is postponed, this job can be done during the transition to 2013.
An overhaul of RA 9054 or the amended Organic Act for ARMM is a major legislative reform agenda that this Congress will focus next in its deliberations upon submission of the ARMM regional legislative assembly and the tripartite review peace panels their recommendations. RA 9054 will likewise be harmonized with the ongoing MILF-GPH peace negotiations that have significantly gained momentum with an agreement near in sight. This is again another matter that Congress will look into after we pass HB 4146.

7. What are the objectives of the ongoing peace process between government and the MILF and the MNLF?

The MNLF peace pact is in the process of finalizing a tripartite review and will most likely result in the overhaul of the Organic Act or RA 9054. Misuari has objected to the passage of RA 9054 but was marginalized by other MNLF leaders led by Parouk Hussin who readily accepted it and served as ARMM governor after Misuari.
The MNLF identifies three major issues that are beyond the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP’s) mandate ---1. Increase in territories through a plebiscite; 2. Major share in revenues from strategic minerals under a 70-30 scheme; and 3. Implementation of executive doables (i.e. Bangsamoro Development Assistance Fund, Regional Security Force, and appointments in the executive branch). Also, the MNLF wants a transition council akin to the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) before Congress passes the new Organic Act.
The MILF seeks the creation of a contiguous land, air, and sea territories under an ancestral domain framework. It will greatly expand the present ARMM and will include the Moro Gulf, Sulu Sea, and part of the South China sea near Palawan.

8. Are the demands of the MILF and MNLF achievable within a two-year timetable?

Yes, if the ARMM and the national government will make peace a major focus in the next several months. Overhaul of the ARMM Organic Act must come from the ARMM and not directly initiated by Congress. Likewise, the ARMM can serve as the consultative mechanism to ‘harmonize’ the peace negotiations between the two fronts.
Prepared by: Reform ARMM Now (RAN)