House panels okay postponement of 2011 ARMM polls

TWO committees of the House of Representatives have reported out for plenary debate the proposed measure postponing the ARMM election scheduled for August 11 this year in order to synchronize it with the national and local elections in 2013.

Following extensive deliberation, the members of the Committees on Suffrage and Muslim Affairs passed House Bill No. 4146 separately by a vote of 23-4 and 13-0, respectively. The bill was backed by 54 lawmakers led by Rep. Bai Sandra Sema (1st District, Maguindanao and Cotabato City).

The deliberation focused not only on the postponement of the ARMM elections but also on the constitutionality of the subsequent appointment of Officers in Charge.

During the discussion, Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles (1st District, Davao City) noted the stance of the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding the status of incumbent officials of the ARMM when their term expires in September this year.

“The DOJ cited previous case that actually showed the holdover of incumbent officials is unconstitutional. Since the end result is unconstitutional, then the action preceding the holdover – the postponement of election – must also be unconstitutional,” Nograles said.

According to Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan De Oro City), the proposed bill will entail the amendment of the Organic Law or Republic Act No. 9054 in several manners.

Rodriguez said synchronizing the election of the ARMM with the national and local election in 2013, which is not found in the Organic Law, will constitute an amendment.

The appointment of OICs is not present in the Organic Law so there is no such thing as appointed governor and appointed regional assembly, Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said the bill also provides for the qualifications of those who will be appointed OIC and their ineligibility to run for elected positions in the next regular elections, neither of which is found in the Organic Law.

But Deputy Speaker Pablo Garcia (2nd District, Cebu) said the proposed bill is an amendment not of RA 9054 but of RA 9333. The Act amends fixing the date of regular elections for elective officials of the ARMM, which is pursuant to RA 9054.

Garcia said Congress has the power to postpone elections. “Even the elections of members of Congress, which the Constitution sets on the second Monday of May, can be postponed by Congress,” he said.

The veteran lawmaker cited a provision in the Constitution stating that the regular election of the president, senators and the members of Congress is set on the second Monday of May, unless otherwise provided by law.

“Congress can set and postpone the election. That is precisely their right, why under RA 9333 they reset the election of the ARMM in 2005,” he added.

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