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Palace trimming ‘long list of contenders’ for Mindanao autonomous region’s OICs

/ 07:02 PM June 14, 2011

COTABATO CITY—Malacañang should take extra care in wading through a swamp of endorsements and nominations for officers-in-charge in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), an Aquino ally said on Tuesday.

Yusoph Mama, director of the Department of Agrarian Reform in Southern Mindanao, disclosed that Malacañang has been trying to come up with a short list of probable presidential appointees to 26 elective posts in the ARMM.

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The terms of office of current ARMM officials will expire on September 30.

Their successors would have been elected in August but Congress has postponed the elections to 2013.

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Under the law postponing the elections, President Benigno Aquino III will have to name the officers-in-charge as it would be unlawful for the current set of officials to continue in office in holdover capacity.

Mama said he learned from his sources about a “long list of contenders” for governor, vice governor and 24 assemblymen that the Office of the President wanted “trimmed down” for easy selection.

Mama’s sources told him that former ARMM governor Zacaria Candao was in the long list.

Candao is a close ally of President Aquino’s maternal uncle, Jose “Peping” Cojuangco and his wife, Margarita Tingting Cojuangco, whose bid for the ARMM vice governorship was aborted by the ARMM postponement.

During his tenure as ARMM governor, Candao was accused of misdeeds in office including fund misuse.

The Sandiganbayan in 2008 found Candao and several officials guilty of committing fund irregularities involving P21 million and sentenced him to a jail term of 56 years.

The Sandiganbayan upheld that decision after Candao and several other former ARMM officials filed motions for reconsideration.

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Besides their prison terms, Candao and the other convicted officials were also barred from holding any government position.

He was ordered by the graft court to pay the government P3.86 million.

Another close Aquino ally, who requested anonymity for lack of authority to speak on the matter, said the list might be finalized after the President’s signing of the ARMM election postponement law.

Those who would be chosen, the source said, would take over after September 30, the expiration of the terms of incumbent officials.

Naguib Sinarimbo, ARMM executive secretary, said the President should make his choices on time to avoid a power vacuum.

But Sinarimbo said groups could bring the matter to the Supreme Court, which could overturn the approved bill.

“This is the apprehension of some legal luminaries in case the Supreme Court rules otherwise,” Sinarimbo said.

Sinarimbo said such probable turn of events is shared by Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo during their discussion in Manila last week.

“What will happen when appointed officers-in-charge will have to be recalled because of an adverse Supreme Court ruling? We will certainly have a political vacuum,” Sinarimbo said.

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TAGS: Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Elections, Local authorities, Local Governments, Philippines, Politics, Regions
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