SC rules synced ARMM polls constitutional in split vote

Published by rudy Date posted on October 19, 2011

A close vote by the Supreme Court (SC) has upheld the constitutionality of Republic Act 10153 for the synchronization of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) elections with the national and local elections in 2013.

Court Administrator and spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said the Court’s ruling will authorize the president to appoint officials in the meantime.

“The TRO is being lifted and therefore the President will be allowed to appoint OICs upon finality of the decision,” Marquez said.

The magistrates were unanimous in upholding the power of Congress to synchronize the ARMM elections but were divided on the issue of appointing OICs for ARMM posts.

Associate Justices Arturo Brion, Lucas

Bersamin, Diosdado Peralta, Martin Villarama Jr., Jose Mendoza, Mariano del Castillo, Bienvenido Reyes and newly appointed justice Estela Perlas-Bernade, held that the President can appoints OICs for all the posts in ARMM.

Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Jose Perez and Ma. Lourdes Sereno held that R.A. 10153 is partly constitutional and partly unconstitutional.

Chief Justice Renato Corona and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and Roberto Abad, on the other hand, held that the President cannot appoint an OIC in any ARMM posts.

“The majority held that it is within the power of Congress to synchronize elections and also authorize the President to appoint OICs,” Marquez noted.

Two petitions filed by opposition lawmakers led by House Minority Leader and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and Datu Michael Kida of the Maguindanao Federation of Autonomous Irrigators Association, and Basari Mapupuno sought to declare unconstitutional R.A. 10153.They argued that R.A. 10153 would violate Section 16, Article VII of the Constitution as it is not within the power of the President to appoint ARMM officials.

They added that the mandate of elective officials come from the people and allowing the President to substitute to this power of the electorate could set a dangerous scenario.

Members of the House Minority bloc yesterday said that it will ask the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision in allowing the postponement of the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

According to House minority leader Edcel Lagman the 8-7 voting in the Supreme Court favoring the Malacañang-backed move to postpone the polls and synchronize it with the 2013 elections merits a second look.

“I won’t comment on something I have not read. But because the voting is too close, 8-7, a motion for reconsideration is warranted and we will file it soonest,” Lagman said yesterday.

But members of the majority welcomed the high court’s decision.

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said that the high court’s decision would give President Aquino another chance of appointing his friends to the post, adding that the decision infringes on the constitutional right to suffrage of the people in the ARMM.

“It’s a sad day for the people’s constitutional right to suffrage of the people of ARMM. We have postponed barangay elections, now ARMM elections and appoint the officials of ARMM,” Colmenares said.

Another lawmaker who is opposed to RA 10153, Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco also expressed disgust at the SC decision but said he would have to respect the ruling of the high court.

“While I am disappointed with the ruling, I have to respect the decision of the Supreme Court,” Tiangco told the Tribune.

“But I’m sure petitioners on the issue would be filing a motion for reconsideration,” he added.

Meanwhile, elated with the latest ruling of the SC declaring the constitutionality of its decision to postpone until the 2013 midterm ARMM polls, Malacañang said Tuesday it will not fast track the selection of ARMM governor, Vice-Governor and members of its legislative assembly.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the SC ruling which favors the position of Malacañang bodes well for the relationship of Malacanang and the high tribunal which has deteriorated following the decision of the Department of Budget and Management to demand a quarterly report on its miscellaneous personnel benefits fund (MPBF).

“We thank the Supreme Court for upholding our effort to break the cycle of impunity, corruption and poverty in the ARMM. The administration supported the bill to synchronize the ARMM elections with national elections in an effort to end the vicious cycle of abnormal elections where the mandate of the people is subverted by means of the command vote wielded by local political families, “ said Lacierda.

Lacierda said that with the SC decision, widespread cheating will in ARMM will now be stopped as local political families “will be less able to utilize command votes in favor of political patrons to subvert the national will” because they must attend to their election at the same time that national elections are being conducted. –Benjamin B. Pulta with Gerry Baldo, Charlie V. Manalo and Virgilio J. Bugaoisan, Daily Tribune

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