Philippine Daily Inquirer – Last hearing on ARMM polls

By TJ Burgonio | Philippine Daily Inquirer

InquirerMANILA, Philippines–Racing against time, the Senate committee on local government has scheduled a final public hearing on Thursday on the Malacañang-backed proposal to postpone the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) elections.

The hearing, to be held in Marawi City, will coincide with the start of the filing period for certificates of candidacy for the Aug. 8 polls.

The public hearing is the final step before the committee comes out with its report on Senate Bill 2756 and House Bill 4146 which seek to synchronize the ARMM polls and the 2013 midterm national elections, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said.

Floor debates could begin “as soon as possible” after the report is issued, Marcos, the committee chair, added.

“Many officials in the administration have made very strong representations to me to continue to treat as urgent the measure postponing the ARMM elections,” he said.

Postponing the vote and holding it together with the May 2013 national elections is among President Benigno Aquino III’s pet legislative bills. The House of Representatives has approved its version of the measure and it is now with the Senate for approval.

Meanwhile, a local leader in Maguindanao has warned that those opposed to holding the ARMM elections on Aug. 8 might resort to “desperate measures,” as he welcomed the intensified police and military efforts at keeping the peace in the region.

According to Datu Michael Abas Kida, “With many senators opposing the two bills proposing the postponement of the ARMM election, there may be a sinister effort to paint a picture of lawlessness in the ARMM to force the postponement on imagined security concerns.”

“But the police and the armed forces are in full control of the peace and order situation. There’s absolutely no justification for postponing the polls because of fears that private armies of political warlords and armed rebels could disrupt it,” he said.

Kida said Muslim Filipinos were looking forward to the August elections as this would give them a chance to vote for leaders that they trust and respect.

“I appeal to the military and the police to increase security measures in ARMM to ensure that certain groups with ulterior motives do not take advantage of the situation to sow fear or create havoc to justify the polls’ deferment,” Kida said.

The Commission on Elections has said it was ready to hold the elections, but preferred a postponement.

Holding the elections in August would be a distraction to the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, high on the agenda of which are proposed amendments to the organic law that created the ARMM, officials of the peace process have said.

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