Slay case hounds ARMM favorite
Former Anak Mindanao party-list Representative Mujiv Hataman, reportedly President Benigno Aquino III’s top choice as officer in charge (OIC) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), still has “a pending case” at the Department of Justice (DOJ) in connection with the November 2007 Batasan Complex bombing.
This was according to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who said families of the victims of the deadly explosion had filed a petition for review seeking the reversal of a DOJ resolution clearing Hataman of any role in the attack.
On Wednesday, a House leader said the President should “not limit” his choices of ARMM OICs within his political sphere in the Liberal Party.
An umbrella group of Moro civil society organizations also raised early objections to Hataman’s appointment, with its leader calling him a ‘’traditional politician” with “credibility problems.”
Hataman and former Basilan Representative Gerry Salapuddin were among those accused of masterminding the Batasan bombing, which killed their known political rival, then Basilan Representative Wahab Akbar, and five others.
“I think Mujiv still has a pending case. As to the exact status, I’m checking on it,” De Lima told reporters Wednesday.
But the secretary doubted whether the matter could still affect Hataman’s pursuit of reforms in the ARMM, if indeed he would get the post. “I don’t think so since per the results of the preliminary investigation, there’s no probable cause against him,” she said.
“But, of course, that is yet subject to the outcome of the petition for review,” De Lima added.
Released during the tenure of then Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, the DOJ resolution clearing Hataman of charges of multiple murder came out a month after the bombing. A motion for reconsideration was resolved, again in Hataman’s favor, in 2008.
De Lima said she had ordered the immediate resolution of the motion for review “to settle the matter once and for all,” and that she would inform the President of the status of the case.
Reduction in the works
Prosecutor General Claro Arellano, she said, had informed her that “a resolution is, in fact, being prepared already, especially so that it’s now overdue.”
Hataman’s name surfaced as Mr. Aquino’s top pick following a Supreme Court ruling that upheld as constitutional a law postponing the August 8 ARMM elections and authorizing the President to appoint OICs in executive and legislative positions in the region.
House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong Representative Neptali Gonzales II urged President Aquino to broaden his choices for the autonomous region’s OICs beyond his Liberal Party allies.
“If we are after true reforms in ARMM, (Mr. Aquino) should not limit his choice among members of the LP. Otherwise, it may ripen to criticism that he is just favoring the LP,” Gonzales said in a text message.
Hataman ran under the LP in a losing bid to be Jolo provincial governor last year.
But for Aurora Representative Juan Eduardo Angara, Hataman may just be the right choice: “I’ve known (him) as a colleague and friend, and I know he is a reformer and can institute lasting changes for the better.”
A Philippine Daily Inquirer source said there had been intense lobbying among LP bigwigs to have their candidates picked by the President to serve as OICs in the ARMM until the 2013 synchronized elections.
They include Senator Franklin Drilon, an LP stalwart, who has been vocal about his endorsement of his fraternity brother, Makabangkit Lanto. Drilon made the endorsement during a televised forum on September 11.
Lanto lost to Bobby Dimaporo when he ran for a congressional seat in Lanao del Norte and again to Representative Pangalian Balindong when he sought a House seat in Lanao del Sur.
Lanto was one of the seven individuals named by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in a short list of candidates for ARMM OIC-governor, which included Ali Sanchez, Saidamen Pangarungan, Dimas Pundato and Norma Sharief.
For Mardeka, an alliance of prodemocracy Moro civil society groups, the implementation of much-needed reforms in the ARMM might only come to naught with Hataman as one of its OICs.
According to Mardeka secretary general Nash Pangadapun, the former party-list lawmaker is perceived by the public as a “traditional politician (trapo)” who has his own political baggage.
He said Hataman had been meeting with and promising positions to erstwhile political allies of former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“These traditional politicians have their own private armies. How is he going to crack down on these private armies, for instance? We don’t see any reform here,” Pangadapun said in an interview.
“He’ll be busy making political accommodations instead of focusing on reforms,” he said. “If I were the President, I would appoint somebody who has no trapo mentality. There should be a clean slate.
“We won’t have a good start if the OIC has credibility problems. Besides, if he’s appointed OIC, this would be perceived as lutong macaw (charade),” he added.