By Angie M. Rosales | The Daily Tribune
Despite reported lobbying by the Palace, specifically President Aquino himself, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. remains steadfast in not rushing the bill seeking the postponement of elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Marcos, also the chairman of the local governments committee tackling the bill, is taking his own time in handling the deliberations at panel level, emphasizing that the legal and constitutional merits need to be carefully studied.
While pressed for time, as Congress is due to go on another recess less than a month from now, Marcos said he intends to file a report sometime next week.
The senator yesterday announced that his committee will hold another public hearing in Marawi City next week before submitting its committee report on the Malacañang-backed proposal to postpone the ARMM polls originally scheduled for August this year to 2013.
He stressed that there is a need to conduct further hearings as to provide the bases for any conclusions in the eventual committee report.
“The issue of the ARMM elections has once more come to the fore. Many officials in the administration have made very strong representations to me to continue to treat as urgent the measure for the postponement of the ARMM elections,” Marcos said.
The senator stressed it is his intention to issue the committee report as soon as possible and had hoped to have done it sometime next week.
“We will try to do our best to finish the committee report,” he said.
Marcos expressed confidence that after that hearing in Marawi his committee will have the proper bases for a complete committee report which he will bring to the floor soon after the hearing.
Marcos called for initial hearing last April 7 to establish the “true sentiments” of the people in the ARMM before the vote in the Senate on the postponement of the elections gets under way.
Marcos earlier said that the committee still has to consider the legal and constitutional issues of deferring elections in August as scheduled.
Former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., for his part, said Malacañang’s bid postpone the August 8 election in the ARMM is “practically dead” as there is simply not enough time.
“Malacañang’s position is not tenable. They are pushing hard for poll postponement and the appointment of OICs (officers-in-charge), but they have to follow legal processes,” Pimentel, in a statement, said.
“They need to first amend the ARMM Organic Law and subject it to a plebiscite. That is the process and the ARMM Organic Law was adopted only after it was subjected to a plebiscite. That would be difficult for them since they cannot hold a plebiscite before the election. There’s no time,” he added.
“The situation is complicated because we gave Muslim Filipinos self-rule. That’s why we call ARMM an autonomous region. It’s not right that we in Metro Manila are trying to take it away from them,” Pimentel said.
The former senator said he disagrees with the very idea of synchronizing the ARMM polls with the 2013 midterm elections as this would diffuse the attention of the national government.
“I don’t agree with the concept of synchronized polls. That means the government – Comelec (Commission on Elections), AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), PNP (Philippine National Police) — as well as electoral watchdogs, will lose their focus,” he noted.