Manila Bulletin - Senators set ARMM talks on poll postponement

12 May 2011

By Manila Bulletin

mb_onlineMANILA, Philippines — Former Senate President Aquilino ‘’Nene’’ Q. Pimentel Jr. said Wednesday independent-minded senators would reject a Malacañang-supported bill that would postpone the scheduled Aug. 8 election in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) when it is presented for floor debate next week.

"I am confident that our senators can see through the unconstitutionality of postponing the ARMM election through a simple piece of legislation that will not be subject to a plebiscite,’’ Pimentel said.

Former Senate President Franklin M. Drilon, however, expressed optimism that the ARMM election deferment bill would be passed by the 24-member Upper House. He himself filed a Senate version of the House of Representatives-approved bill seeking postponement of the ARMM election.

The two issued their separate statements following a series of meetings held by President Benigno S. Aquino III with his political allies, including the four pro-administration Liberal Party senators, to push for the approval of the bill.

After a three-year break from being a member of the Senate, Drilon returned to the Senate following his victory in the May 10, 2010 senatorial election where he ran under the LP banner.

Pimentel, on the other hand, bowed out of the Senate last year after a two consecutive six-year term in the Senate which included a stint as Senate chief in the 2000-2001 period.

Filing of certificates of candidacy in the ARMM election already started last May 2.

Sen. Ferdinand R. Marcos, chairman of the Senate local governments committee, is expected to submit for floor debate sometime next week his report even as he stressed that he personally wants the ARMM election to go on as scheduled.

Pimentel said the ARMM Organic Law came into effect only after it was adopted by the people of ARMM through a referendum.

As such, the ARMM election could not be postponed by a law not subjected to a plebiscite, he stressed.

“No luncheon meetings by the President with the senators can change the fact that Malacañang wants to postpone the ARMM election to 2013 so it can appoint its own people to govern the region in the next two years,” said Pimentel.

“Why? Has this administration run out of appointive positions that it now wants to dispense to its allies what are elective positions at ARMM? Our democracy is being sacrificed by the administration before the altar of political accommodation,’’ he said.

Pimentel noted the strong opposition to the ARMM bill expressed by Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Joker Arroyo and Marcos.

On Tuesday, President Aquino met with four senators belonging to his own party, the Liberal Party, before meeting with Senators Panfilo Lacson and Antonio Trillanes.