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Zubiri says Palace using pork to get its way on ARMM

Is Malacañang dangling the pork barrel to influence senators to vote in favor of postponing the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)?

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, who is against postponement, revealed there was “intense lobbying” coming from Malacañang for him to agree to President Aquino’s position that the ARMM elections should be deferred to 2013 to synchronize it with the national and local elections.

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If administration Sen. Franklin Drilon gets his way, the Senate will put the matter to a vote tonight (Monday), three days before Congress adjourns.

“The lobbying is intense. I must admit, even I was approached by secretaries of Malacañang. I won’t name names, but I was approached and was asked to help them. They said they were hoping that I would change my position,” Zubiri said in Filipino in an interview with dzBB radio.

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Asked if the release of the pork barrel was being used to convince senators to side with the President, he said: “I cannot confirm or deny for my colleagues. But as far as I’m concerned, I still have no funding for 2011.”

No different

“But I hope (the pork barrel, or a lawmaker’s allotment of countryside development funds) would not be used as a solution because if so, what would make this administration different from the previous administration, which we called ‘trapo (traditional politics)’?” he said.

“That is ‘trapo’ politics because what (the Palace) wants you to do, you should follow because they won’t release your pork barrel…I hope it won’t happen.”

Drilon said insinuating that the pork barrel would play a role in the outcome of the upper chamber’s decision on the ARMM elections was an “insult” to the senators. “We talk about the merits,” he insisted.

Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said at least six senators were lined up to interpellate Drilon today. He said the entire session in the afternoon would be devoted to debates on the postponement of the ARMM election, which is scheduled for Aug. 8.

Those pushing for the holding of ARMM elections as scheduled are Senators Zubiri, Edgardo Angara, Ramon Revilla Jr., Francis Escudero and Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

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Those seeking postponement are the four members of Mr. Aquino’s Liberal Party in the chamber—Senators Ralph Recto, Francis Pangilinan, Teofisto Guingona III and Drilon.

“The debates will be very, very crucial for those who have not decided,” Sotto told the Inquirer.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has joined the Senate in asking the Supreme Court to junk a petition seeking to stop Congress from tackling the bill to postpone the Aug. 8 ARMM elections.

Premature

In a 25-page comment, the House’s legal department said the Supreme Court should dismiss for lack of merit the complaint of the group of Datu Michael Abas Kida of the Maguindanao Federation of Autonomous Irrigators Inc.

The House said it was premature for the petitioners to challenge the proposal (House Bill No. 4146) because it has not yet become law.

Kida and company asked the Supreme Court to nullify the two bills as well as Republic Act No. 9333, a 2004 law that set the ARMM elections on the second Monday of August in 2005 and every three years thereafter.

They said the elections in the ARMM cannot be held on Aug. 8 or even in 2013 because the expanded ARMM Organic Act, RA 9054, set the elections for every second Monday of September—or on Sept. 12 this year.

Plebiscite

They also argued that RA 9333 was invalid because any amendment to an organic act should have been ratified in a plebiscite.

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal also argued against the view of Drilon and the Palace that the postponement of the ARMM polls was in line with the Election Synchronization Law of 1991, which requires that all elections, whether local or national, be held on the same day.

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TAGS: ARMM, Conflicts (general), Congress, debates, Elections, Legislation, postponement
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