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The Daily Tribune - Noy’s OIC choice has pending criminal case

In The News
20 October 2011

By Benjamin B. Pulta | The Daily Tribune

The-Daily-TribunePresident Aquino pushed the law deferring the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao elections which gave him the power to appoint officers in charge for all the posts in the ARMM, with his claim that, as ARMM is a failed experiment, reforms must be effected through these presidential appointees of the ARMM.

His earlier admitted choice for the ARMM governorship, former Anak Mindanao party-list Rep. Mujiv Hataman, however, has a pending criminal case at the Department of Justice, but Secretary Leila de Lima yesterday broadly hinted at the case being dismissed by the DoJ.

De Lima confirmed that the criminal complaint against Hataman for his alleged involvement in the 2007 bombing incident at the Batasang Pambansa remains pending before the DoJ.

Speaking to reporters, De Lima said Hataman who is the Palace’s top pick to be officer-in-charge of the ARMM is still the subject of a petition for review in her office seeking Hataman’s indictment for the Nov. 13, 2007 bombing at the Batasang Pambansa complex in Quezon City.

Of the complaint against Hataman, she said Of the complaint against Hataman, she said she has directed the immediate resolution so as to settle the matter once and for all.

Even before the law postponing the ARMM polls was upheld by the Supreme Court (SC), talk was already out that Aquino had endorsed Hataman as the OIC governor.

De Lima admitted that Hataman’s chances of being appointed as OIC of ARMM would depend on the outcome the petition for review although at present there is no legal impediment on his possible appointment.

“I don’t think so, since per the results of the preliminary investigation there’s no probable cause against him,” De Lima said, but quickly added that this is subject to the outcome of the petition for review.

“That’s why I want it immediately resolved so as to settle the matter once and for all,” she clarified.

Relatives of some of the victims of the Batasan bombing are asking the DoJ to immediately resolve the case filed before it against those involved in the 2007 Batasan bombing, including Hataman.

They urged the DoJ to reverse its Feb. 22, 2008 and April 2, 2008 resolutions which found no probable cause to indict Hataman and several others.

In its petition for review, the victims’ relatives sought the setting aside of the Resolutions and instead issue a new one finding probable cause for the prosecution of Hataman and other respondents for multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder.

Authorities concluded that the 2007 bombing incident inside the Congress’ compound was an assassination plot against former Basilan Rep. Wahab Akbar, one of those killed.

The DoJ has filed mutliple murder and multiple frustrated murder charges before the Regional Trial Court in Quezon City against accused Caidar Aunal, Adham Kusain and Ikram Indama.

Subsequently, former Basilan Rep. Gerry Salapuddin, Police Officer 1 Bayan Judda, Jaharun Jamiri and Benjamin Hataman were also indicted for the same charges before the trial court.

Salapuddin has been accused of masterminding the killing of Akbar.

But a civil society Muslim group also came out against the appointment of Hataman as the ARMM governor, saying that reforms at the ARMM are not likely to happen as it claimed that Hataman was a traditional politician.

The group pointed out that Hataman already carries political baggage and is not likely to be a leader who would be accepted by the Muslims in the ARMM.

An appeal on the SC’s decision upholding the constitutionality of the law that made possible the postponement of the ARMM electionsshould be in order to clearly define the magistrate’s position on the matter, a senator said yesterday.

“Due to the close vote, a motion for reconsideration is called for and even has a practical chance of succeeding. As to what arguments will be placed there, we need to read the decision first before going to this point,” Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, chairman of the upper chamber’s electoral reforms and people’s participation committee, said.

Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, noted the thin line that divides the SC justices on the issue right now, pointing out that a shift in position of a single magistrate could spell a whole lot of difference on the legality of the move of Malacañang, deferring the ARMM polls to the national elections two years from now.

House Senior Deputy Minority Leader, Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez yesterday said the appointment of a new justice to the Supreme Court (SC) made the difference in its decision to uphold the constitutionality of the administration’s pet measure.

Noting the ongoing word war between the Palace and SC Chief Justice Renato Corona, the new appointees might have taken the side to favor Aquino.

“What is very noticeable here is if you look at how they voted, the two most senior member of the SC (Corona and Justice Antonio Carpio) voted against the measure while the new appointee said the RA 10153 was constitutional,” Suarez said.

With the voting very close at eight against seven, Suarez said they will definitely file a motion for reconsideration on the high court’s decision.

“I just talked to Congressman (Edcel) Lagman and we will file a motion for reconsideration,” Suarez said. We have 15 days to file our motion.”

However, in the event the SC upholds it earlier decision, Suarez said the administration would have the advantage going to the 2013 elections.

“In 2013, the administration candidates will be at an advantage if the ARMM OICs are theirs,” Suarez said.

Nonetheless, Suarez said Aquino should be forewarned against appointing non-Muslims as OICs in ARMM.

Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.,warned of the possibility of a new round of social and political turmoil in the region should Malacanang proceed in appointing OICs despite strong objections by the Muslim communities.

Marcos, in an interview with reporters, said that the reason peace remains elusive in ARMM is that the Muslims are not given proper representation.

“We continue to deny them the right to be heard. We refuse to allow them to choose their own leaders and instead have the Palace dictate upon them. If this kind of treatment will prevail over our Muslim brothers, I think we should brace ourselves in dealing with a chaotic situation in ARMM.

“In my opinion the SC decision is a big blow, a letdown to our Muslim brothers in Mindanao. I still believe it is unconstitutional,” he said.

The senator, who was among those who voted against the ratification in the Senate of R.A. 10153, emphasized that the reason it was called an autonomous region is precisely to be able to self-govern.

“Why is the Palace dictating upon them? If other Filipinos would not allow it, why do this only among the Muslims? That’s precisely the reason we fail to resolve the peace and order problem there since we refuse to listen to their voices,” he added.

Marcos, who is the chairman of the local governments committee, is one among those who expressed belief that this is all but a political move for the administration party.

“But of course. That is exactly what it is all about. This is a political move for the Liberal Party (LP) to put in position its own people in preparation for 2013. I think this is a very clear message to everyone, why this all happened,” he said.

Escudero said it will be more prudent on the part of the Executive to await the finality of the ruling of the high court, considering the close vote of the magistrates.

“It’s a divided court, (with a vote of) 8-7, it means that a defection or a shift of vote of one could spell a new majority or minority in court (on the issue).It would be more prudent but legally there’s no legal hindrance or obstacle towards the President acting accordingly this early in the day especially given the fact that, as I understand that the temporary restraining order has been lifted already,” he said in another interview with reporters.

Although he also opposed the passage of the bill into law, the SC decision should be respected.

“As a lawyer, I will respect and accept the decision regardless of my position on the matter. And since the TRO has been lifted, the President is now free to appoint OICs in ARMM even if some groups would try to seek for a reconsideration of the ruling,” he said.

Escudero said that it cannot be helped that some of those who will fill in the vacated positions as OICs may be considered as “political accommodations”, as pointed out by Marcos, they can always be replaced anytime by the President, depending on their performance.