By Jorge Cariño and Atom Araullo | ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - Senators are still divided on their views about the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the constitutionality of Republic Act 10153, a measure synchronizing the elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with the 2013 mid term elections, and providing for the appointment of Officers-in-Charge in the region.
Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. said the Supreme Court's decision defeats the real intention of providing autonomy to the region.
"Paano naging autonomous eh eto nga't ang national government ay nagde-decide para sa mga kababayan natin sa Mindanao," he said in an ambush interview.
The Ilocos Norte legislator said if the ARMM situation is valid, then most likely the Republic should also consider appointing all officials including Senators.
But his colleague from Pampanga, Sen. Lito Lapid, believes that the appointment of an OIC for the ARMM is beneficial.
"Mas maganda yung appointed para kung magkaproblema e di pwedeng alisin din agad," said Lapid.
With tongue firmly in cheek, he said senators too would be better if they were just appointed. "Sipsipan na lang," he said.
Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero, who opposed the postponement of the ARMM elections, said everyone should respect the High Court's decision.
Escudero said the law was studied and crafted by Congress and its legality was upheld by the SC. "Kaysa magbangayan o magtalo-talo, ayusin na lamang natin ito para makausad tayo," he said.
The Supreme Court said it is within the power of Congress to synchronize the ARMM polls, originally set in August 2011, with the regular elections beginning in May 2013.
The majority decision also ruled it was constitutional for the President to appoint officers-in-charge (OICs) for the Office of the Regional Governor, Regional Vice Governor and Members of the Regional Legislative Assembly.
'A clean break from past abuses'
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, meanwhile, praised the SC decision and said postponing the ARMM elections will give authorities an opportunity to "make a clean break from the abuses of the past."
She said the administrative set-up in the region is not responsive to the needs to the people. She said a culture of violence, fear, and impunity persists in ARMM.
Under these conditions, she said any electoral exercise will be futile.
"The important thing here is to implement synchronized elections throughout the country. Ang sabi ng Supreme Court, tama ang synchronized elections," she said.
"During the transition period, we will be implementing much needed reforms like cleansing the voters' list."
De Lima said the OICs to be appointed by Malacañang will be "qualified and accountable."
"Maglalagay ng karapat-dapat to jumpstart the reforms. Hindi politics ang iisipin ng mga ito," she said.
Hataman facing charges over Batasan blast
The justice chief, meanwhile, confirmed that former party-list lawmaker Mujiv Hataman still has pending cases in connection with the 2007 Batasan bombing.
Hataman, who is allegedly being eyed for the post of OIC governor of ARMM, was earlier implicated in the bombing that killed 6 people, including Basilan Representive Wahab Akbar.
"Upon checking with NPS (National Prosecution Service), (the) complaint vs Mujiv Hataman was, after (preliminary investigation), dismissed in 2008. But there's a pending Petition for Review which is up for resolution," de Lima said in a text message.
The families of the victims are requesting the Department of Justice to reinstate Hataman as one of the respondents in the Batasan bombing.