Sun Star - Lawmaker to appeal High Court ruling on Armm polls

19 October 2011

By Sun Satr

sunstar-manilaMANILA -- A lawmaker vowed to appeal a Supreme Court (SC) ruling declaring as constitutional a law that synchronizes polls in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) with the midterm elections.

“Because the voting is too close, a motion for reconsideration is warranted and we will file it soonest,” House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman said.

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The SC, voting 8-7, ruled on Tuesday as constitutional Republic Act (RA) 10153, allowing President Benigno Aquino III to appoint officers-in-charge (OICs) in Armm for the positions of governor, vice governor, and members of the regional legislative assembly.

Court administrator and spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said majority of SC justices believed that it is within the power of Congress to synchronize elections and to authorize the President to appoint OICs.

The majority is composed of Associate Justices Arturo Brion, who penned the majority decision; Lucas Bersamin, Diosdado Peralta, Martin Villarama, Jose Catral-Mendoza, Mariano del Castillo, Bienvenido Reyes, and Estela Perlas-Bernabe.

Dissenting justices are further divided in their opinion.

Justices Antonio Carpio, Jose Perez and Maria Lourdes Sereno said RA 10153 is partly constitutional as it can synchronize elections, but also unconstitutional in the sense that only the OIC in the Office of Governor may be appointed by the President.

Chief Justice Renato Corona, Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo de Castro, and Roberto Abad all said that while RA 10153 may synchronize the elections, the appointment of all OICs by the President is unconstitutional.

Lagman has been given 15 days to file a motion for reconsideration.
Last September, the SC issued a temporary restraining order barring Aquino to implement the law and appoint OICs who will replace Armm incumbent officials, whose term expired last September 30.

Lagman earlier won its petition filed at the SC questioning Aquino’s Executive Order 1 creating the Truth Commission. The Truth Commission was supposed to investigate the alleged corruption committed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during her nine-year term.

The opposition leader also questioned the RA 10149, or the GOCC (Government-owned and –controlled corporations) Governance Act of 2011. The said petition is still pending with the High Tribunal.
The Palace, for its part, welcomed the SC ruling that will uphold the administration’s “effort to break the cycle of impunity, corruption, and poverty in the Armm.”

"The Supreme Court decision gives us a great opportunity to correct these long-standing problems. It is an opportunity that we will not squander," presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.

With the SC’s ruling, Lacierda added that the executive is finalizing the list of Armm OICs.

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and the selection committee are expected to submit a shortlist to President Aquino.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) also welcomed the SC ruling considering that almost P2 billion will be saved by the poll body with the recent decision.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., an ally of Aquino, meanwhile, said that with the SC decision, the President’s plan to reform the autonomous region can now be carried out.

Majority Leader Neptali “Boyet” Gonzales II defined the postponement of the Armm polls as one of “Aquino’s defining moments in instituting reforms in our country.”

“The fact that he won in the SC, albeit, by the slimmest of margin, gives a new ray of hope that he has finally hurdled the last stumbling block, perceived before as the SC, to his reform agenda,” he said in a text message.

Senator Franklin Drilon, principal author of Senate Bill 2756 that sought the deferment of the Armm elections, said the SC ruling supports the argument of Aquino allies that holding a synchronized election is in line with the Constitution.

"We believe that there is a greater chance of instituting reforms with the appointment of officials, rather than having the elections now," Drilon said.

House Deputy Majority Leader Romero Quimbo said incumbent Armm officials “have no right to remain in their posts” even if a motion for reconsideration would be filed because their terms have already elapsed.

Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., for his part, said he was surprised upon learning the SC’s ruling.

“Mahirap makamit ang kapayapaan sa Mindanao kung ang Malacanang ang laging magdidikta sa kanila at ayaw silang bigyan ng boses. Malaking pagbigo ito sa ating mga kapatid na Muslim,” he said in a text message.

Bayan Muna party-list Representative Neri Colmenares, who voted against the House measure postponing the Armm polls, expects Aquino to appoint another one of his “KKK”, a group of appointees said to be composed of his classmates, close friends and shooting range buddies.
“Pag nag-appoint ka ng kabarilan baka lalong mag babarilan sa Armm to the loss of the people of Armm. I am afraid na lalong magkakagulo sa Armm lalo na kung ang appointees ng Malacanang are not fit for office and therefore do not have the trust of the people,” he pointed out.

Kabataan party-list Representative Raymond Palatino maintained that RA 10153 violates the Constitution and it is “undemocratic since people will be denied of chance to choose new leaders.”