GMA Online - Senate begins debate on postponement of ARMM polls

2 June 2011

By Kimberly Tan | GMA News

GMA_onlineThe Senate on Wednesday began the interpellation on the bills seeking the postponement of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) polls scheduled next August.

During Wednesday's Senate session, Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente "Tito" Sotto III said at least six senators will give their comments on House Bill 4146 and Senate Bill 2756, which seek to postpone the ARMM polls and synchronize it with the 2013 elections.

The senators are Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., Sergio "Serge" Osmena III, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Edgardo Angara, Jinggoy Estrada, and Alan Peter Cayetano.

Marcos, chairman of the Senate local government committee, said he is still not convinced that reforms in ARMM will not be attained without the postponement of the polls there.

"Why is it necessary for us to cancel the elections in ARMM and to appoint OICs so as to be able to reach reform?" he said during the period of interpellation.

Senator Franklin Drilon, author and sponsor of SB 2756, admitted that it is "debatable" whether postponing elections would pave the way for reforms in ARMM.

This does not change the fact that the Constitution provides for a synchronized elections. So it won't make sense to hold separate polls in the area, Drilon noted.

"The principle purpose of synchronzation is to comply with Constitution, the rest becomes secondary," he said.

Marcos, for his part, said that such issues can only be decided in court and not in the Senate. He maintained, however, that allowing the postponement will affect the autonomy of ARMM.

He explained that it is unconstitutional for the President to appoint officers-in-charge to vacancies created because of the postponement.

Drilon, however, said that the President can invoke his residual powers in case of a political vacuum.

Sotto said the interpellations of Osmena, Zubiri, Angara, Estrada, and Cayetano have been scheduled Monday. Drilon, for his part, appealed that the Senate vote on the bills right after the interpellations.