CAGAYAN DE ORO City, Feb. 10, 2011â€” An official of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is pushing for a postponement of the 2011 ARMM elections citing unresolved issues that could spawn violence.
â€œIt is the most practical alternative that the national government can adopt,â€ said ARMM Acting Governor Ansaruddin Alonto-Adiong in supporting the calls for the postponement of the 2011 ARMM elections scheduled in August.
Adiong said that issues related to the history of election violence and failures and on the ongoing peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as well as the government, Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Tripartite Review of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement should be fully resolved first before calling for the elections.
Continuing with the elections will â€œonly complicate unsolved social issuesâ€ such as the absence of a negotiated political settlement with the MILF, aside from worsening the conduct of the polls, he said.
Postponing the elections, Adiong said, will prevent political violence from erupting in the ARMM where families and clans are dragged into feuds (locally called rido) that go on for countless years.
During the May 2010 national and local elections, eight towns in Lanao del Sur and two towns in Basilan declared failures of election. Four months later, in what many believe is election-related, a former mayor of Tugaya, Lanao del Sur was killed in an ambush. On November 20, 2010, the vice-mayor of Barira, Maguindanao was gunned down in Davao City. His death is also widely believed as connected to the recently conducted SK and barangay elections.
Because of these election-related violence, scheduled elections in the towns of ARMM are declared failures, prompting the Commission on Elections to call for special elections like the June 23, 2010 elections in the seven municipalities of Lanao del Sur.
Also, voters in 178 barangays all over the ARMM were not able to cast their votes on October 25, 2010 for Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections because of violence, prompting COMELEC to call for special elections in these barangays.
Adiong also called the attention of the government to conduct a study on the perennial low turn-out of voters, which he attributed to â€œelection fatigueâ€ and massive vote-buying.
With the August ARMM Elections postponed, the most logical and publicly acceptable means of preserving the integrity of the autonomy of the ARMM is the extension of the term of incumbent elected officials, he added.
But Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong, former Deputy Speaker for Mindanao and secretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ) questioned moves to postpone the ARMM elections.
Datumanong said that it is specifically stated in Republic Act 9333 that â€œelections are to be held in the second Monday of August every three years.â€
Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda had earlier said that President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III wants the ARMM elections reset to May 2013 for it to be conducted simultaneously with the national and local elections.
â€œWe need to synchronize (the ARMM elections with the national and local polls because) number 1, as we know, ARMM has been a region where there is such a thing as command votes. It has been manipulated a number of times in the past elections, that is something that we need to address,â€ Lacierda said recently.
The ARMM was created as part of the government’s commitment to the MNLF with whom it signed a final peace agreement on September 2, 1996. (Bong D. Fabe)