SC to hear arguments today on ARMM poll postponement
MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court will hear Tuesday arguments questioning the postponement of the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
In its advisory, the high court en banc has consolidated all the seven petitions concerning the ARMM polls.
President Benigno Aquino III defended the decision to synchronize the ARMM elections with the 2013 polls, saying in his State of the Nation Address that to allow these elections to proceed would have “perpetuated the endless cycle of electoral fraud and official abuse that has led ARMM to become one of the poorest regions in the country.”
But petitioners argued that with the postponement, the autonomy guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution to the ARMM under Republic Act 10153 would have been rendered meaningless.
One of the petitioners, Minority Leader Representative Edcel Lagman of the House of Representatives, said that RA 10153 “violated and vitiated all the built-in safeguards of autonomy of ARMM.”
Other separate petitions were filed by election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, a group of Muslim leaders together with PDP-Laban President Aquilino Pimentel III, Datu Michael Abas Kida et al., Basari D. Mapupuno, Louis “Barok” Biraogo and Representative Jacinto Paras.
In his petition, Lagman said that RA 10153 violated the provisions of the ARMM laws which mandate the conduct of a plebiscite before any postponement could be enacted.
He said that the law’s provision that allowed the President to appoint officers-in-charge was banned by the Constitution – the same argument raised by Macalintal.
“The Constitution grants only the power of general supervision, not control, to the President over ARMM officials. The statutory grant to the President to appoint officers-in-charge in ARMM under RA 10153 is unconstitutional because the power to appoint and remove OICs is a veritable power of control,” he said.
In their petition, former Tawi-Tawi Governor Almarim Centi Tillah, professor Datu Casan Conding and Pimentel said that RA 10153 was invalid and unconstitutional.
Paras, on the other hand claimed that the cancellation of the ARMM election violated the Constitution that gave autonomy to the region.
“Synchronizing the ARMM election with the national and local elections scheduled for May 2013 makes the ARMM no different from the regular cities, provinces and municipalities …. Under this set up, the autonomy guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution to the ARMM is rendered meaningless by Republic Act No. 10153,” he said.