Sunday, March 13, 2011

Muslims divided whether to postpone ARMM polls or not

Signs calling for the postponement of the August polls in the Muslim autonomous region are hanged by the bleacher in Zamboanga City where a public consultation is held on Sunday, March 13, 2011 whether to postpone the polls in the Muslim autonomous region and synchronize them on 2013 national polls. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 13, 2011) – Philippine lawmakers headed to Zamboanga City on Sunday where they held the last public hearing on a proposal to postpone the August elections in the five-province Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao.

The House Committees on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms and Muslim Affairs have already held similar public hearings in Cotabato and Marawi cities.

President Benigno Aquino wanted the regional polls synchronized with general elections in 2013 and appoints officials that would run the autonomous government until a new set of leaders is elected.

The House Bill 4146 which was approved by the two house committees deferred the elections from August to May 2013.

More than 1,000 people, mostly from Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces have joined the public hearing held at the Don Pablo Memorial School. Although Zamboanga City is not part of the Muslim autonomous region, it serves as the trading center of the three neighboring provinces.

The governors of the three provinces also attended the public hearing and have supported mounting calls to synchronize the elections on 2013 and for Aquino to appoint officer in charge to run the autonomous region until new leaders are elected.

“There is a strong clamor to postpone the polls and for the President to appoint officers in charge – must be non-politicians - until such time elections are held and a new set of leaders chosen by the people,” said Sulu Governor Sakur Tan. “There must be no hold-over positions for the current leaders of the regional government so the central government can run the autonomous government effectively.”

But some groups are also calling for elections in August so Muslims can elect their new set of officials.

“House Bill Number 4146 which seeks to move the elections from August this year to May 2013 simultaneously with the midterm elections that year is indubitably a grossly (violation) measure that under undermines the democratic will constitutionally vested upon the Filipino people, particularly the Muslims in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.”

“It comes at a time that the latter’s faint hope for lasting peace are about to be rekindled when President Benigno Aquino has assumed office putting ardent trust in him that there shall be just, fair and equal playing field in the political arena,” said the Alliance of Concerned Muslims in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The Regional Vice Governor Reggie Generale, who is also the daughter of Tawi-Tawi Governor Sadikul Sahali, said she also wants the elections to push through.

The public consultation was briefly interrupted after a group of Muslims heckled Sulu Representative Nur Anna Sahidulla, one of those who co-authored the House Bill 4146. Policemen were also seen trying to accost those who heckled Sahidulla, but was prevented by dozens of women who protected them. (Mindanao Examiner)

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