Postponement of ARMM polls “most practical”—Adiong

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY–“It is the most practical alternative  that the national government can adopt.”

This  was the categorical statement of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Acting  Governor Ansaruddin Alonto-Adiong in supporting the calls for the postponement  of the 2011 ARMM elections scheduled in August.

Adiong  said that issues related to the history of election violence and failures and  on the ongoing peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic  Liberation Front (MILF) as well as the government,
Organization of Islamic  Conference (OIC) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Tripartite Review of  the 1996 Final Peace Agreement should be fully resolved first before call for  the elections.

Continuing  with the elections will “only complicate unsolved social issues” such as the  absence of a negotiated political settlement with the MILF, aside from  worsening the conduct of the polls, he said.

Postponing  the elections, Adiong said, will prevent political violence from erupting in  the ARMM where families and clans are dragged into feuds (locally called rido) that go on for countless years.

During  the May 2010 national and local elections, eight towns in Lanao del Sur and two  towns in Basilan declared failures of election. Four months later, in what many  believe is election-related, a former mayor of Tugaya, Lanao del Sur was killed  in an ambush. On November 20, 2010, the vice-mayor of Barira, Maguindanao was  gunned down in Davao City. His death is also widely believed as connected to  the recently conducted SK and barangay

Because  of these election-related violence, scheduled elections in the towns of ARMM  are declared failures, prompting the Commission on Elections to calls for  special elections like the June 23, 2010 elections in
the seven municipalities  of Lanao del Sur.

Also,  voters in 178 barangays all over the ARMM were not able to cast their votes on  October 25, 2010 for Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections because of  violence, prompting COMELEC to call for a special
elections in theses  barangays.

Adiong  also called the attention of the government to conduct a study on the perennial  low turn-out of voters, which he attributed to “election fatigue” and massive  vote-buying.

With  the August ARMM Elections postponed, the most logical and publicly acceptable  means of preserving the integrity of the autonomy of the ARMM is the extension  of the term of incumbent elected officials, he added.

But Maguindanao Rep. Simeon  Datumanong, former Deputy Speaker for Mindanao and secretary of the Department  of Justice (DOJ) questioned moves to postpone the ARMM elections.

Datumanong said  that it is specifically stated in Republic Act 9333 that “elections are to be  held in the second Monday of August every three years.”

Presidential  Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda had earlier said that President Benigno Simeon C.  Aquino III wants the ARMM elections reset to May 2013 for it to be conducted  simultaneously with the national and local

“We need to  synchronize (the ARMM elections with the national and local polls because)  number 1, as we know, ARMM has been a region where there is such a thing as  command votes. It has been manipulated a number of
times in the past elections,  that is something that we need to address,” Lacierda said recently.

The ARMM was created as part of the  government’s commitment to the MNLF with whom it signed a final peace agreement  on September 2, 1996.- Albus D. Estabas

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