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Business World - Malacañang preparing for Senate rejection of poll postponement bill

In The News
2 June 2011

By Johanna Paola D. Poblete | Business World Online

business_worldTHE PALACE is preparing for a possible rejection by the Senate of the bid to postpone elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to include choosing candidates to support, a presidential aide said yesterday.

Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr. told reporters that the administration still prefers postponement but it may have to consider an alternative given the proposal’s unfavorable reception at the Senate on Tuesday.

"I don’t think we have any other option but to pursue the elections. We’re all so pressed for time here. The elections are [on Aug. 8]. So if it dies in the Senate, the option is for the Comelec (Commission on Elections) to proceed," Mr. Ochoa told reporters at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City upon the departure of President Benigno S. C. Aquino III for a two-day state visit in Brunei Darrusalam.

He said the administration is discussing who to support among the candidates given that the deadline for the filing of candidacy lapsed on May 25.

"If we were to pick one to support will be bound by the list of those who filed," said Mr. Ochoa.
As to whether the President will support the candidacy of his aunt, Margarita "Tingting" R. Cojuangco, Mr. Ochoa said "that is part of the discussions."

Ms. Cojuangco, who owns residences in Cotabato City and Zamboanga City, is running for vice-governor.

ARMM groups the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Not giving up

The Palace is not giving up hope, however, as Mr. Ochoa said that the Senate numbers are not yet settled.

"Each of the senators has their own views on this and we respect that so we’re hoping and praying that they see the wisdom of the President’s position on the postponement," the official said.

"The real position of the President is to synchronize it by 2013... and the postponement is just one way of getting there... whatever happens, we can still work on the synchronization of the postponement anyway," Mr. Ochoa said, referring to the 2013 midterm elections.

Senate Bill 2756, which seeks the synchronization, was criticized on Tuesday by Senate committee on local governments chairman Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. for being "ill-prepared."

Mr. Marcos said that the bill will likely be rejected, contrary to the less contentious passage on third and final reading of its counterpart, House Bill 4146.

Senators have questioned the constitutionality of allowing the President to appoint officers-in-charge when current officials end their term on Sept. 30.

The bill, identified as a priority in the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council, is being debated on the plenary floor and a vote will be set next week.

Congress officially adjourns its first regular session on June 10 but plenary sessions will be held only until June 8.
The second regular session starts on the last Monday of July to hear the State of the Nation Address of the President.