Manila Standard Today - Marcos axes Aquino poll plan but revives debate

1 June 2011

By Rey Salita | Manila Standard Today

Featured-image-Manila-Standard-TodaySENATOR Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Tuesday axed a Palace-backed bill to postpone the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, only to revive it later in the day for plenary deliberations.

Marcos said the issue was of grave importance, and that the public should be informed and allowed to participate in the process to “determine the democratic fate of the region.”

Marcos, who heads the committee on local government, had rejected the Palace bill to move the August elections to 2013, saying granting President Benigno Aquino III the authority to appoint officers-in-charge was contrary to the autonomy that the Constitution guaranteed the region.

Normally, an unfavorable committee report is automatically sent to the Senate archives, but Marcos himself moved to retrieve it and bring the discussion to the Senate floor.

Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Senators Teofisto Guingona III, Sergio Osmeña III, Francis Pangilinan, and Antonio Trillanes IV supported the motion, while Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago seconded it, giving Marcos the five votes he needed to bring his report back to the legislative agenda.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile approved the motion.

In his report, Marcos recommended that the elections in the autonomous region be held as scheduled on the second Monday of August 2011.

He said synchronized elections should be considered only after there was concrete evidence of electoral and political reforms. He expressed the Senate’s recognition that there was an immediate need to carry out reforms in the region and to review the organic act that created it.

Contrary to Palace claims, Marcos said, the Commission on Elections had enough money for the elections, and that it had earmarked P2 billion for the purpose.

Marcos aside, the report was signed by 10 other senators: Juan Miguel Zubiri, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Gregorio Honasan, Manuel Lapid, Manny Villar, Romon Revilla Jr., Francis Escudero, Jinggoy Estrada, Vicente Sotto III, and by Palace ally Franklin Drilon with a note to debate the issue in the plenary.

Marcos said there were irreconcilable contradictions in the Malacañang-backed bill, which he called ill-prepared and defective.

In the morning, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita Deles, and presidential political adviser Ronaldo Llamas made a last-ditch effort to convince Marcos’s committee to consider the postponement.

To everybody’s surprise, Llamas said the provisions on the terms of appointed officials was unconstitutional, but later corrected himself.

Senator Francis Escudero, who is opposed to postponing the elections, said the bill was “incoherent” on why the postponement was being sought.

“If both bills seek to synchronize the ARMM poll with the national elections in 2013, then Section 2 is incoherent,” Escudero said.

“The election in 2013 is done in May and all winners will assume office on June 30 of the same year. Their term will expire on June 29, 2016.”

Also on Tuesday, the Supreme Court dismissed a petition seeking to stop Congress from deliberating on the bills seeking to postpone the elections. Court spokesman and administrator Jose Midas Marquez said the justices voted to dismiss the petition by lawyer Alex Macalawi because it was premature, adding the proposed laws were still to be passed by Congress