Business Mirror - Senators seek compromise on ARMM elections bill

30 May 2011

By B. Fernandez | Business Mirror/a>

businessMirrorSENATORS, sharply divided over the Malacañang-backed bill postponing the August 8 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), will hold a closed-door caucus on Monday to explore a possible compromise to speed up passage of the controversial measure that would enable the Palace to appoint interim officers in charge until the next ARMM elections set to coincide with the 2013 midterm elections.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile is convening the all-senator caucus amid conflicting positions taken by lawmakers on the ARMM elections postponement bill that the local governments committee, chaired by Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., is expected to reject to reflect the prevailing sentiments aired by majority of the ARMM constituency during a series of Senate hearings in Mindanao.

Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto III earlier explained that under Senate rules, an adverse committee report by Marcos’s committee means the ARMM poll-deferment bill authored by proadministration Sen. Frank Drilon would end up in the archives. But Sotto added that the same rules allow five senators to retrieve the archived bill for deliberations, amendments and final approval, by majority vote in plenary session, reversing the committee’s original recommendation rejecting the poll postponement.

Senate insiders confided that apart from Drilon, other senators allied with the ruling Liberal Party, including Ralph Recto, Teofisto Guingona III and Francis Pangilinan, as well as Sens. Panfilo Lacson and Antonio Trillanes IV, could provide more than five signatures needed to resurrect the bill from the archive.

On the other hand, senators who voiced support for the clamor to push through with the ARMM elections as scheduled, aside from Marcos, were minority Sens. Alan Cayetano, Joker Arroyo, Pia Cayetano, Miguel Zubiri and proadministration Sen. Francis Escudero.

Sen. Miriam Santiago also expressed reservations even as she acknowledged the merits of the Executive’s proposal to synchronize the ARMM polls with the 2013 midterm senatorial elections. She noted, however, the misgivings aired by Muslim leaders at the Mindanao hearings that since the terms of all incumbent ARMM officials expire this August, Malacañang will be appointing officers in charge who will, in effect, hold office for at least two years.

“We have to give due weight to the sentiments of the people in the ARMM because they are the ones who will be affected by the law that we are crafting,” she said.