Malaya - ARMM poll delay bill gets one more hearing

24 May 2011

By Jp Lopez and Gerard Naval | Malaya

MALAYA_thumbTHE Senate committee on local government that is deliberating on Senate Bill 2756, the measure that would postpone the Aug. 8 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), still has one final hearing to go before coming out with a committee report, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Monday.

The Commission on Elections, which has been waiting for weeks for the final word on whether the elections will be postponed until 2013 or will go on as scheduled this August, gave ARMM candidates a two-day extension until May 25 to file their certificates of candidacy (COC).

"(Looks like we’re going to have another) hearing and we will ask the political advisers of the President about this proposal that they have put before us through the House and in the Senate," Marcos, chair of the Senate local government panel, said.

Marcos said they have yet to schedule the hearing but it will be held in Manila and would invite as resource persons Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles, and Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs Robert Llamas.

Marcos earlier said that he is not inclined to support the postponement of the elections in the ARMM and has found allies in senators Juan Miguel Zubiri and Francis Escudero who said the poll postponement is unconstitutional.

The House of Representatives has passed its own measure deferring the polls for two years.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the extension, requested by ARMM election director Rey Sumalipao, will give candidates more time to journey from their island-provinces.

"As you know, iyong ARMM is a very geographically unique place. Marami tayong islang municipalities diyan. Iyong Basilan, Sulu at Tawi-Tawi are, in fact, island-provinces so medyo nahihirapan silang bumiyahe papuntang Cotabato City, specifically, for the governor and vice governor positions," said Jimenez.

Aside from the extension, Jimenez said the commission en banc has also allowed COCs for the posts of governor and vice governor to be filed in Zamboanga and Marawi cities instead of exclusively at the office of the Regional Election Director in Cotabato City.

Jimenez said at among the early filers for vice governor was former Tarlac governor Margarita "Tingting" Cojuangco, resigned president of the Philippine Public Safety College and aunt of President Aquino.

Jimenez said Mrs. Cojuangco’s given address was Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao where she says she has maintained a house since 1988.

Cojuangco is running with gubernatorial aspirant Pakung "Pax" Mangudadatu under the PDP-Laban.

President Aquino yesterday clarified that his aunt is not an administration candidate, pointing out that his government is actually working for the postponement of the ARMM elections.