‘Aquino stalling on ARMM poll bill to block opposition in SC’
President Benigno Aquino III is set to sign four bills into law today (Tuesday) but they do not include the measure deferring the Aug. 8 Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao elections to May 2013.
The minority in the House of Representatives has accused Mr. Aquino of deliberately stalling the signing of the ARMM election postponement law to prevent opponents from blocking it in the Supreme Court.
But Communications Secretary Ramon Carandang said that Mr. Aquino had set a separate date for the signing of the ARMM bill so that he could fully explain its significance to the public.
Carandang however did not give the date for the signing. “We’re waiting for the right time to pass that,” Carandang told reporters in a briefing.
Scheduled for signing today are the Act Extending the Implementation of the Lifeline Rate for Power Consumers; Joint Resolution No. 1 Extending the Period of Existence of the Joint Congressional Power Commission; the Act Allowing the Employment of Night Workers, and the Act Providing for Mandatory Basic Immunization Services for Infants and Children.
On Malacañang’s prodding, Congress passed the bill deferring the ARMM elections and synchronizing it with the May 2013 mid-term elections before it adjourned on June 8.
Some lawmakers had opposed the measure because it would give the President “blanket authority” to appoint officers in charge in the autonomous region between now and 2013.
Opponents have vowed to question the constitutionality of the postponement in the Supreme Court.
“After getting what he wanted from Congress, the President is temporizing in signing the bill into law to prevent the Supreme Court from resolving what he does not want, which is the nullification of the deferment of the ARMM elections and his appointment of OICs,” said House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman in a statement.
Lagman pointed out that after making an extra push to have the ARMM election postponement bill passed by Congress, the President was now sitting on the measure.
Proponents claimed that the postponement would allow the Aquino administration to implement sweeping reforms in the ARMM where massive aid and government support had failed to generate economic benefits and stability to residents.
But critics argued that the bill violated the constitutional right of the ARMM residents to vote, that the President’s move to appoint OICs in the interim was illegal, and that reforms could be implemented without postponing the elections.
“The obvious motive for this dilatory scheme is to deny the Supreme Court enough time to rule on expected petitions challenging the validity of the eventual statute deferring the ARMM polls and authorizing the President to appoint OICs. As long as the enrolled bill remains unsigned by the President, any petition before the Supreme Court will be premature in the absence of a covering statute,” said Lagman.
Lagman said that any petition to block the ARMM postponement law in the SC could be rendered moot “as the preparations for the scheduled elections appears to have been halted by the Commission on Elections—as if the postponement is already a done deal.”