The Daily Tribune - Muslim group warns of ‘jihad’ if ARMM polls are shelved

24 May 2011

By Angie M. Rosales | The Daily Tribune

The-Daily-TribuneA Muslim group has threatened to launch a “jihad” or a holy war if the proposed post-ponement of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will materialize, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri revealed yesterday.

Former Tawi-Tawi Gov. Almarim Tillah issued the threat during a recent Senate’s hearing on the bill seeking to defer the ARMM polls, the lawmaker said.

“He said they will launch a jihad if it happens because their ancestors fought hard for the autonomy (of Mindanao) in the Tripoli (peace talks) during the administration of President Marcos which is now the organic act and all these efforts

will simply be put to naught,” Zubiri said, in relaying the proceedings of the Senate local governments committee hearing in Marawi City recently.

Tillah, now a leader of the group called Islamic Society of the Philippines, has also warned the committee chaired by Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. of the possibility of an uprising should the administration deprive them of their right to vote this August.

When asked on how serious the threat made by Tillah, Zubiri said it’s something that the administration should not take lightly even if the former is no longer holding any elective position.

“Coming from the former governor, that they’re threatening to resort to jihad (that’s serious). That’s part of their statements,” he added.

While Tillah may not be representing or have command of significant number of followers, Zubiri said “we can see their strong sentiment on the issue, that they’re really passionate against the deferment of the polls and they don’t want appointments of OICs (officers-in-charge).”

Both Zubiri and Marcos announced the holding of another hearing, possibly this Wednesday with concerned Cabinet officials as resource persons.

While observers said this could be just but a move to delay the measure from being put to a debate on the Senate floor as time appears to be running out on the approval of the bill since Congress is set to adjourn sine die on June 9, Zubiri vehemently denied.

“Delay? Of course not. (But) I think it should proceed as scheduled. If you’re asking me personally, it should proceed as planned,” he said.

Marcos, for his part, defended the reason behind the move to conduct further hearing on the measure.

“We will ask the political advisers of the President what the discussion was that brought about this proposal that they have put before us through the House and in the Senate,” he said.

Marcos added the Executive is yet to present any concrete plans or procedures in selecting the OICs for the region which is among the pressing concerns of the ARMM residents.

“There are many new arguments that brought about and as I said we have a great deal to think about and a lot to discuss and digest and perhaps we have given an opportunity to all those that wanted to speak out on either side of the issue. I think we have achieved that today. Perhaps the last group that we need to hear from is in fact the Executive department for them to explain exactly why it is that they have made this proposal,” he stressed.

The senator could not give any categorical statement as to when he can come up and submit a committee report in the plenary.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said if Marcos’ committee will recommend against the postponement of the polls, the bill will have to be “archived.”

“If he will recommend against postponement, five senators will have it archived and then five senators will bring it out from the archive. Then, we will discuss it on the floor. We can amend the Committee Report on the Floor,” Enrile explained.

Asked if there’s enough time to work on the approval of the bill, the upper chamber leader answered in the affirmative.

“Yes. We have (sessions) until June 7,” he said.

Meanwhile, President Aquino found it “illogical” for the public to believe that he will be fielding his aunt and former Tarlac Gov. Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco as the administration’s candidate should the ARMM elections push through this August.

Aquino told reporters in a chance interview yesterday that his administration is still working within the premise of having the ARMM elections deferred so it can be synchronized with the national elections in 2013.

“How are we going to work with the postponement (of the ARMM elections) and have a candidate at the same time? I guess that is quite illogical. The goal is to synchronize all the elections and not let (ARMM hold its poll exercises) only the year after,” Aquino said.

Cojuangco used to be the head of the Philippine Public Safety College but she resigned early last month citing her differences with Aquino’s position on the issue of the ARMM elections as among the reasons.

She was reported to have filed already her certificate of candidacy to seek the governor’s seat in the ARMM last Sunday.

Aquino remained hopeful that the legislative branch will consider their standpoints in seeking the postponement of the ARMM elections for the sake of implementing the so-called “institutional change” in an effort to thwart the command votes system in the troubled region.