Tarlac Gov. ‘Tingting’ Cojuangco says ARMM polls misjudged
TARLAC CITY—Former Tarlac Gov. Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco defended the integrity of elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), saying the common Muslim overcame fraud in the last elections and helped elect her nephew, President Aquino.
Cojuangco, who had planned to run for ARMM vice governor until the elections were postponed by Congress upon the prodding of Mr. Aquino, issued the statement in reaction to what she said was the President’s indiscriminate assessment of ARMM as a region of electoral cheats in his State of the Nation Address on Monday.
“Why did Noy win in ARMM without political bigwigs? Because the voice of the common Muslim was heard and electoral fraud was overcome by the spirit of hope, the sustenance of freedom his parents fought for,” Cojuangco said.
“Noy can’t say ARMM engaged in electoral fraud otherwise he would have lost in ARMM,” she added.
In his SONA, Mr. Aquino said politics in ARMM has been dominated by “horse trading and transactional politics.”
“During national elections, whoever is in power in ARMM is free to manipulate the electoral machinery in his region, ensuring that nonallies do not get votes,” he said.
Mr. Aquino said his administration wanted ARMM “to experience the benefits of good governance.”
“And so, the solution: Synchronization—candidates in ARMM will run at the same time as candidates in other parts of the country. There would be less opportunity for them to employ command votes for political patrons. The result would be fairer elections,” he said.
He said there was a need to postpone the ARMM elections “because in their desire to return to or retain power, many are prepared to engage in corrupt practices just to win again.”
But Cojuangco said “manipulation of electoral machinery can take place and does take place nationwide, not only in ARMM.”
“With money, anyone can buy and be bought. That’s manipulation, [it happens] even in [Mr. Aquino’s home province of] Tarlac,” she said.
Cojuangco said it was not for Mr. Aquino to say that the postponement of the ARMM elections was a good decision.
“I go back to the inherent right of the people to vote [which is] enshrined in our Constitution and that no changes can take place without a referendum or plebiscite … Only the outcome of the plebiscite, with questions put through for the people of ARMM, will answer whether Noy’s decision was or is good for the people of ARMM,” she said.