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Explanation of Vote against ARMM Election Postponement (HB 4146)

16 May 2011 No Comment

Explanation Of Vote Against House Bill 4146, An Act Providing For The Synchronization Of The Elections And The Term Of Office Of The Elective Officials Of The Autonomous Region In Muslim Mindanao (Armm) With Those Of The National And Other Local Officials, Amending For The Purpose Republic Act No. 9333, Entitled “An Act Fixing The Date For Regular Elections For Elective Officials Of The Autonomous Region In Muslim Mindanao”, And For Other Purposes

Rep. Antonio L. Tinio
ACT Teachers Party-List

ACT Teachers Party-List votes “no” to House Bill 4146 for the following reasons:

1. House Bill 4146 is offensive to the 1987 Constitution and the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

First, the Constitution assures the people of ARMM local autonomy, by express provision in Section 2 of Article X and by the assurance of regular elections. But while proponents use the terms “resetting” or “synchronization” of elections, the bill will actually provide for the cancellation of elections scheduled in August 2011.

HB 4146, by providing for the appointment by Malacañang of “officers-in-charge” to take over the posts vacated by incumbent elected officials of ARMM whose terms shall have ended, does tremendous violence to the whole democratic process of election of officials to executive and legislative posts outlined and mandated in the ARMM Organic Act (R.A. 6734 as amended by R.A. 9054).

Furthermore, Article XVII of the ARMM Organic Act provides for the various ways by which amendments to said Act may be effected. Ultimately, ratification by the people in the ARMM through a plebiscite is required to make any amendment effective.

Proponents of HB 4146 are acting in bad faith when they claim that the bill will in no way amend the ARMM Organic Act, despite the fact that it strikes at fundamental features of the latter, namely its provisions on the participation of citizens in the ARMM in elections to select their regional executive and legislative officials. Such a claim is made in order to justify the blatant circumvention of said provisions on amendment, particularly the requirement of ratification through a plebiscite.

2. House Bill 4146 violates the democratic rights of citizens in ARMM and makes a mockery of regional autonomy.

House Bill 4146 is profoundly undemocratic, depriving the citizens in ARMM of their fundamental right to choose their leaders and imposing a set of leaders who will rule for nearly two years without the mandate or consent of the governed.

By providing for “Officers-in-Charge,” it will formally reinstate the colonial relations that have historically prevailed between the National Government and Muslim Mindanao, and which are at the root of the long-running and ongoing struggle of the Bangsamoro for self-determination.

The very language used by Malacañang and its proponents in the House to justify the bill reflects this colonialist thrust. ARMM is referred to as a “failed substate,” directly echoing the rhetoric employed by the United States to justify the invasion and installation of puppet governments in Afghanistan and Iraq, two countries with predominantly Muslim populations. In the same way, the bill will allow Malacañang to impose a set of leaders handpicked from its stable of retainers, to rule what is in effect a puppet government in ARMM.

3. House Bill 4146 grants the President the dictatorial power to appoint officials to elective posts.

House Bill 4146 will set a dangerous precedent by granting the President the dictatorial power to appoint officials to elective posts. Nowhere in the Constitution or in existing laws is the President granted such a power. No President serving under the current Constitution has exercised such a power.

This representation rejects the argument propounded by the proponents, taking their cue from the Secretary of Justice, that the provision on appointment of OICs may be justified by invoking the “residual powers” of the President. We maintain that “residual powers” can only be exercised by the President in a situation where the law is silent but executive action is required. HB 4146, on the other hand, explicitly grants the President the power to appoint OICs. To be valid, it must therefore either be consistent with existing laws or amend or repeal existing laws. As argued earlier, HB 4146 does neither—it violates key provisions of the ARMM Organic Act and also fails to comply with its provisions on amendment. In any case, by definition, “residual powers” cannot be invoked.

4. House Bill 4146 undermines the urgent and immediate implementation of genuine reforms in the ARMM.

Proponents of the bill parade various reasons that allegedly warrant the postponement of elections. One such justification is that postponement of elections and Presidential appointment of OICs is a necessary condition for the implementation of election and governance reforms in the allegedly “failed experiment” that is ARMM. Such an argument holds no water since the Constitution, the ARMM Organic Act, and other existing laws provide the President and the COMELEC with ample powers to check abuses and implement reforms in ARMM at any time. This include the Executive’s power to withhold the release of funds to ARMM, and the power to suspend its officials. Moreover, the President retains full control over the Armed Forces. Urgent reforms in ARMM, such as the audit of its finances, dismantling of private armies, and cleansing of the voters’ list can and should be implemented now, not after the postponement of elections. The regular conduct of elections is in fact part and parcel of such reforms.

This representation refuses to be a party to a measure that will violate the fundamental democratic rights of our citizens, trample on the historic demand of Muslim Filipinos for self-determination, and hand over to the Executive unprecedented dictatorial powers on a silver platter.

I vote “no” to House Bill 4146. #

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