COTABATO CITY—Amid allegations of massive poll cheating in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), President Aquino’s anointed candidates, now the region’s governor-elect and vice governor-elect, welcomed scrutiny with sobriety.
“The sovereign will of the majority is under question, and it’s up to the duly constituted authorities to judge the veracity of these complaints,” said Mujiv Hataman, former ARMM caretaker, now elected governor.
His Liberal Party running mate Haruon Al-Rasheed Lucman Jr. said “this is democracy at work when the aggrieved parties are welcome to air opposing views,” as he and Hataman called for unity in paving the way for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Political Entity that is envisioned to replace ARMM.
The establishment of the Bangsamoro Political Entity is part of the peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Lucman was former ARMM interior and local government secretary while Hataman was Aquino’s “troubleshooter” when the latter appointed him ARMM officer in charge in 2012 following the resetting of the regional polls to coincide with the May 13 midterm elections.
The President lauded Hataman’s short-lived caretaker role to institute reforms in the bureaucracy tagging him “ARMM ghost-buster,” after ridding departments and offices of so-called ghost employees and ghost projects that yielded for the autonomous government close to a hundred million-peso savings.
Despite complaints that Hataman should have been considered resigned from being ARMM OIC when he filed his candidacy in December, the newly elected governor continued to hold on to his post, saying: “There is an existing jurisprudence to this effect.” He did not elaborate.
Hataman, who was way ahead by over 200,000 votes against closest rival Pax Mangudadatu of the dominant opposition United Nationalist Alliance, has invited the latter to help reinforce the ARMM reform agenda of the President.
“I am personally inviting him to a strategic planning session, a call for unity in the name of peace and prosperity for the Bangsamoro people,” said Hataman of the region-wide planned meeting of experts that the Regional Planning and Development Board envisioned.
He said he intended to pursue the successful launching of HELPS (Health, Education, Livelihood, Peace interventions and other Services), which benefited poor and neglected communities, but which was criticized for having been launched in March as the poll campaign was about to start.
Other similar socioeconomic-boosting activities, have also been launched by other offices, which the opposition considered advantageous to administration candidates.
Hataman, who garnered 446,227 votes against Mangudadatu’s 231,741, described LP’s victory in the ARMM gubernatorial race as the “Voice of the Bangsamoro” wanting change for a much better outlook and brighter future ahead.
Mangudadatu, along with other defeated candidates, called for a review of the canvassed votes in some areas which were considered “spurious.”
Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, joined Mangudadatu’s fray endorsing the use of biometrics in the next scheduled balloting instead of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.
Jaafar’s recommendation came after his son Butch Abo did not succeed in his bid for councilor of this city.
He said there was apprehension from the MILF hierarchy that the plebiscite for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Government that will replace ARMM may suffer the same fate.
Sought for comment, Regional Director Ray Sumalipao of the Commission on Elections said the use of the biometric system in the next elections “would be more credible because we will no longer need poll watchers.”
“Only those whose fingerprints match would be allowed to cast their votes,” Sumalipao said. Charlie Señase, Inquirer Mindanao
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