Arroyo wants ARMM polls postponed; Nograles says he’ll consult first

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Tuesday, 22 July 2008 16:19
var sburl3170 = window.location.href; var sbtitle3170 = document.title;var sbtitle3170=encodeURIComponent(“Arroyo wants ARMM polls postponed; Nograles says he’ll consult first”); var sburl3170=decodeURI(“”); sburl3170=sburl3170.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl3170=encodeURIComponent(sburl3170);DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/22 July) – President Arroyo wants the August 11 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) postponed to give way to recent developments in the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Arroyo issued the announcement Tuesday afternoon (July 22) at the airport in Datu Odin Sinsuat in what used to be Shariff Kabunsuan province. Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon told MindaNews the President wants to “give peace more space and chance to succeed.”

After resolving in Kuala Lumpur last week the last contentious issue on the ancestral domain agenda, the MILF asked the Philippine government through peace panel chair Secretary Rodolfo Garcia to postpone the ARMM elections “in deference to the GRP-MILF peace talks.”

The two panels are set to meet again in Kuala Lumpur on July 24 to finalize the draft Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain and schedule the formal signing of the MOA and the resumption of the formal talks to tackle the political settlement which will be embodied in a comprehensive peace compact.

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal welcomed Ms Arroyo’s announcement on postponement. “We thank the government, especially the President, for heeding our request to postpone the ARMM elections. This postponement is good to the peace process,” he told MindaNews.

The President, however, does not have the power to postpone elections. It is Congress that decides on the matter and on July 19, House Speaker Prospero Nograles had told MindaNews the House was “not inclined to postpone the elections.”

But asked to comment on the President’s announcement today regarding postponement, Nograles told MindaNews in a telephoned message that “as Lakas President, I shall defer to and consult our ARMM loyal allies, the Ampatuans. Should they advice that postponement will speed up the Mindanao peace process, I shall personally try to fast track move to postpone.”

The ARMM Governor is Datu Zaldy Ampatuan, whose father, Datu Andal, is the Maguindanao governor.

Nograles added that “as Speaker, I have called for Mindanao congressmen and women caucus in the House on Tuesday, 2 p.m. after the SONA (State of the Nation Address) and we (will) decide collectively to postpone or not.”

On July 19, Nograles asked, “what’s the factual and legal basis to postpone? To postpone we need at least two weeks to process bill which will amend. Senate must concur. It’s not certified urgent by Palace. Too late to postpone in ordinary legislative process. Commission on Elections has not asked us to postpone. If they are not ready, they will. They didn’t ask us,” Nograles said.

Congress resumes session on July 28, the day the President will deliver her State of the Nation Address (SONA). The President lists the measures certified as urgent during the SONA.

In the MILF’s website, Iqbal pointed out that they wanted the ARMM polls postponed because the ARMM election “has direct bearing on the current peace talks.”

He cited two reasons: “pushing through with the election would create the impression that the government is not really serious in the present talks and President Arroyo is not really determined to wind up the talks during her term of office” and “it will postpone the start of the transition period of the future Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) once the government and the MILF sign the Comprehensive Compact because elected local officials  of the ARMM will have to finish first their term of office in 2011.”

Iqbal also said officials in the provinces, municipalities or cities purported to be included in the area of the BJE will finish their terms of office, like President Arroyo, in June 2010.

Lawyer Datu Michael Mastura, a senior member of the MILF peace panel, said postponing the ARMM polls would be a “clear manifestation of President Arroyo’s policy of the ‘primacy of the peace process.’”

Luwaran, however, quoted Mastura, as saying that the MILF “is not against the candidacy of anyone in the ARMM especially Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan and Bombet Adiong, currently the regional governor and vice regional governor, respectively.”

ARMM Governor Ampatuan told MindaNews in Jeddah last November that while he was willing to sacrifice his post should it be warranted by the peace process, he would run for reelection if the election pushes through on August 11.

Ampatuan told MindaNews in a 2005 interview during the campaign for the ARMM elections that he supports the peace initiatives of President Arroyo and that he had told the leaders in the ARMM “that if I and my running mate are given the chance to lead the ARMM as governor and vice governor, respectively, if within our term a peace agreement would be forged, in the name of unity and peace, in the name of the Bangsamoro, in the name of Islam, we are willing to sacrifice our posts for the Bangsamoro.”

“If we are elected, I as governor and my vice governor, we are willing to leave our posts for the sake of the majority, in the name of peace and unity and in the name of Bangsamoro and Islam,” he said then. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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