GMA News – Bongbong: Senate panel report ‘unfavorable’ to ARMM poll postponement

By Kimberly Jane Tan | GMA News

GMA_onlineThe Senate local government committee report will not be in favor of the postponement of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) elections scheduled on August 8, its chairman Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said Tuesday.

“The committee report is going to be unfavorable [to the proposal],” Marcos told reporters after his committee conducted its last hearing on the bills seeking to postpone the ARMM elections and synchronize it with the 2013 midterm elections.

Marcos explained that there is a “consensus” among many senators not so support what he described as “ill-prepared” House Bill 4146 and Senate Bill 2756.

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, who was present during the hearing, said the senators found the Aquino administration’s reason for pushing for the synchronization “very flimsy.”

“They can’t seem to get their acts together,” he said after the hearing.

Sen. Loren Legarda echoed the same sentiment. “I want to be convinced, but [they’re] not helping me,” she said.

Power to appoint

During the hearing, Marcos, Zubiri, Sen. Francis Escudero and Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada questioned President Benigno Aquino III’s power to appoint officers-in-charge for the ARMM posts that will be vacated if the elections are postponed.

“The most contentious part of this proposal is the power of the President to appoint,” said Marcos during the hearing.

“You will be substituting the discretion of the President with that of the residents of ARMM,” said Escudero, adding that he is doubtful of the process that might be used to pick the appointees.

But Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita “Ding” Deles, and presidential adviser for political affairs Robert Llamas said Aquino has residual powers to appoint and that it would be more contentious to have holdover officials.

They likewise said that the appointee will be nominated and will be screened using certain criteria.

Marcos, however, said that he did not hear any objective test in the selection process.

The three Palace representatives admitted that they have yet to finalize the selection process, but Robredo assured the senators that Aquino will not appoint someone because of some political strategy.

“The President has emphasized that he’s not interested in getting his man in ARMM, he’s interested in reforming ARMM,” Robredo said.

Flaws

But aside from the appointment issue, Escudero raised the supposed flaws in the proposals, specifically in section 2 of both measures which indicate the length of the term of office of elected officials.

Under the two proposals, the term of office of the regional governor, vice governor and members of the regional legislative assembly of the ARMM shall last for three years, beginning September 30 following the day of the election, and ending at noon of the same date three years after.

Escudero, however, said that this contradicts the purpose of the proposed postponement, which is to synchronize the ARMM polls with the succeeding national elections, traditionally conducted in May.

Robredo said that they only wanted to synchronize the elections and not amend the terms of office of the elected officials. He later on suggested that the title of the bills be edited to remove term of office from its scope.

But Escudero said that the matter cannot be solved by just changing the measures’ titles.

Marcos said he hopes to present the committee report to the Senate plenary on Tuesday afternoon.

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