By TJ Burgonio | Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Thursday bristled at Secretary Edwin Lacierda’s insinuation that the senator was “killing” the bill postponing the Aug. 8 Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) elections for 2013.
Marcos defended the move by the Senate local government committee, which he chairs, to hold a series of hearings, including one more next week, on Senate Bill No. 2756 and House Bill No. 4146.
He said the sentiments of all stakeholders, particularly ARMM residents, had to be heard on such a critical matter of whether they should elect their officials this year as scheduled or in 2013.
“Mr. Lacierda should know that we even conducted hearings in Marawi City to ensure that the stakeholders—that includes the ‘entire ARMM’s population’ Mr. Lacierda felt he had to remind me—are given a say in this Palace–sponsored bill,” he posted in his Facebook account.
He said it was the bill’s “assault” on the ARMM voters’ right to suffrage and “disregard” of the region’s autonomy that has “raised the alarm in the Committee over the bill that essentially scraps the scheduled elections in August in favor of allowing Malacañang to just simply handpick their next leaders.”
The Inquirer tried but failed to reach Marcos.
Lacierda, presidential spokesperson, had urged Marcos not to “unilaterally kill” the bill, and report out the committee report to pave the way for plenary debate and vote.
Marcos had hinted that he might draft a committee report contrary to the bill’s intent, hence, it could end up in the archives. But Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said other senators could retrieve it and amend the committee report for plenary debate.
The Aquino administration is racing against time to get the measure approved before Congress adjourns sine die June 8. It had pushed for the postponement to implement reforms in the ARMM, but there was strong objection to the appointment of officers in charge.
The local government committee has set a final hearing on the bill for Tuesday next week to tackle the constitutionality of appointing officers in charge, among others.