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The ARMM elections

Ducky ParedesPostponing the elections may just be the worst medicine for what ails our politics, as it applies to our Muslim brothers.’

THERE have been eight postponements since the first set of ARMM officials was elected on Feb. 17, 1990. Only in 2008 have the ARMM elections been conducted on the date specified by law.

Pending before Congress at the moment is a bill of Lanao del Sur Rep. Pangalian Balindong to postpone the August 2011 ARMM elections so it will be synchronized with the 2013 national elections.

The Aquino administration would also like a postponement of the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao scheduled in August because it believes the government should first bring about major reforms to address the problems of poverty and armed rebellion in the region.

I don’t think the postponement of elections is the answer. In fact, postponing the elections may just be the worst medicine for what ails our politics, as it applies to our Muslim brothers. What is going on in the Middle East where the young are asserting themselves by taking down their governments has not happened there, not yet. But when on thinks about it, would not another postponement work against the idea that we are serious about having an Autonomous Muslim Mindanao?

Amina Rasul writes: "Of the arguments put forward by those in favor of holding the elections, the most compelling was on the legality of postponement. Whereas the old law (RA 6734) governing the ARMM elections specifically allowed for date of elections to be changed, Republic Act 9054, does not allow for the same flexibility. RA 9054, as an organic act, was ratified by the residents of ARMM through plebiscite. Can an act of Congress amend the Autonomy Act, which had been ratified through plebiscite? Even if Congress amends 9054, shouldn’t that amendment be subject to plebiscite before it takes effect?"

Doesn’t taking the usual postponement route to the ARMM elections seem as if we are treating our Muslims as if they were not full-fledged citizens of our democracy? We would have the President appoint the leaders who should (under our laws) be elected by the people?

It is argued that synchronized elections in 2013 would be good for the economy as postponement of the ARMM elections would allow the government to save money. But the Commission on Elections has already categorically stated that it has the needed budget of P1.8 billion to undertake the ARMM polls. There is no need for another budget appropriation. In fact the wiser path is to proceed with the ARMM elections because postponement could aggravate the volatile security situation in ARMM which could lead to adverse repercussions for the country’s economy.

It may well be true that, as the government claims, the ARMM is a failed experiment because it has not fulfilled the aspirations of our Muslim brothers for peace and justice. The ARMM is imperfect due to abuses and mismanagement by its own leaders. If we want to put things in order in the ARMM, then we should proceed with the elections to install a new leadership freely elected by the people. With "daang matuwid" as the underlying philosophy, a new political leadership in ARMM can improve its present state of governance.

Related to this, the government wants to appoint officers in charge with clean slates to oversee reforms in ARMM. But who will select those who will serve as interim officials of ARMM? And what should be their qualifications? Isn’t the best way of choosing who these will be an election?

The establishment of a caretaker government and the appointment of OICs will only serve weaken the self-rule that is at the core of ARMM. The national government should, instead, stop meddling in the affairs of ARMM.

Elections are essential to strengthen the autonomy of ARMM and allow it to exercise self-determination. The government should instead focus on ensuring that ARMM elections are fair, clean and peaceful.

It is claimed that elections in ARMM are determined by traditional warlords and politicians who use guns, goons, and gold to cling to power. But this is also true in other parts of the country? President Aquino won in ARMM even without the help of traditional politicians there.

No matter how imperfect the ARMM is, government is duty-bound to protect it. We can make the institution work, without compromising the people’s right to suffrage.

The more reason then to have an ARMM elections where the people’s choices -- not the warlords’ picks -- are voted into office.

Ours is a republican state founded on democratic ideals. And the regularity of elections is a key feature of a democracy. We should strengthen rather than undermine self-rule in ARMM. The ARMM elections should proceed as scheduled in August to underline the fact that ours – even in our Muslim areas -- is a working democracy.

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DZXQ (1350 kHz Metro Manila) is an AM station owned and operated by Mabuhay Broadcasting System, Inc. The station’s studio is on Julia Vargas Ave., Ortigas Center, Pasig City, with its transmitter located at Brgy. Muzon, Malabon, Metro Manila.

I have been a blocktimer on DZXQ for the last two years. Last week, we were informed that our last broadcast would be today because the station has been sold, Who bought it? No answer. What are the plans of the new owner? Close it down for the nest six months. What?

Among the affected broadcasters are Roger Arienda, Ruben Ilagan, Popo Villanueva Narissa Gonzalez, Jhino Parrucho, , Roland Lumagbas, Dr. Erick San Juan, Reggie Vizmanos, Roy Seneres and several others. I have a one-year contract with the station; others have paid for their time up to the next six months and more. What happens to them? As blocktimers, we have advertising contracts that specify our broadcast times and stations.

I find it strange that someone would buy a radio station whose immediate plans are only to close it down for six months. Is there something more going on that is not being told us? The new owner has installed a security guard to make sure – no doubt – that after today, no one will be allowed entry into the broadcast studio.

I have been on radio or sometime now; stations I worked in have put in new equipment without losing even one second of broadcast time. What is going on? Is there an attempt to muzzle media? Did one of us offend someone rich and powerful who then bought the station so that he could shut it down?

At any rate, the affected persons, about 20 or so, are consulting lawyers to find out what can be done to right something that smells like an attempt to muzzle one or several of us.

Tomorrow, I will be broadcasting, probably on DWSS, 1494 khz AM 10:30 to 11 in the morning. As I write this, we are still talking; thus, nothing is yet sure as I write this column.

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