By Hector Lawas | Journal Online
THE Supreme Court yesterday declared as constitutional a Malacañang-sponsored law postponing until 2013 the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
In an enbanc hearing, the SC voted 8-7 to declare Republic Act 10153 constitutional. As of this writing, the resolution was being circulated among justices for their signatures.
Court Administrator Midas Marquez said the high bench believed that it is within the power of Congress to synchronize the election, and likewise within the power of Congress to allow President Benigno Aquino to appoint officers-in-charge in the region.
Also, Marquez told reporters in a press briefing that the temporary restraining order the court earlier issued was now lifted, hence Aquino is now allowed to appoint OICs but only after the ruling achieves finality.
Under the law, oppositors of the law have 15 days to file their motion for reconsideration.
"ARMM officials in holdover capacity remain in their respective offices until the ruling becomes final," Marquez said.
R.A. 10153, which was signed by Aquino last June 30 synchronized the ARMM elections scheduled on Aug. 8 with the mid-term polls in May 2013.
House Minority Leader Rep. Edcel Lagman, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), and Muslim leaders have filed petitions questioning the legality of the law.
Former Negros Oriental 1st District Rep. Jacinto Paras also joined other petitioners in the SC seeking to stop Malacañang from postponing until 2013 the elections.
In his petition, Paras asked for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent the Palace from implementing Republic Act No. 10153 for violating Section 15, Article X of the Constitution that ensures autonomy to the ARMM.
“Synchronizing the ARMM election with the national and local elections scheduled for May 2013 makes the ARMM no different from the regular cities, provinces and municipalities of the Philippines... Under this set up, the autonomy guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution to the ARMM is rendered meaningless by Republic Act No. 10153,” he argued.
Paras also assailed the provision in R.A. 10153 allowing the appointment of officers-in-charge by the Palace in lieu of all ARMM elective officials.
“Since these officers-in-charge will owe their office to President Aquino, they will be beholden to the President and not to the constituents of the ARMM. Under this set up, the autonomy of the ARMM is reduced to fiction,” the petition read.
Meanwhile the transition team for the ARMM is now ready to work with new officials of the region, Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo said yesterday.
With the high court decision, Robredo said that the roadmap for ARMM’s development is now ready.
It will also allow the government to implement important development programs and projects for ARMM and to undertake institutional reforms and demonstrate that good governance is possible in the area.
President Aquino, according to the DILG chief, has already set aside P8.5 billion for the ARMM development program.
Robredo, who is a member of the panel tasked to select the 26 officer-in-charge positions, said that they had already submitted their recommendation to Aquino who will pick the OICs.
At least three names were recommended for the governor and vice governor positions.
Also up for grabs are seats in the regional council.
Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. yesterday welcomed the SC ruling declaring as constitutional the law resetting the ARMM elections, saying President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III can now appoint new set of officials that would carry genuine reforms in the region. “I am happy about it, now P-Noy’s plan to reform ARMM can be carried out,” Belmonte told reporters.
Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on the other hand was saddened by the high court decision.
"Nagulat din ako sa balita. Mahirap makamit ang kapayapaan sa Mindanao kung ang Malacañang ang laging magdidikta sa kanila at ayaw silang bigyan ng boses. Malaking pagbigo ito sa ating mga kapatid na Muslim.”