MANILA, Philippines - Former Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. on Wednesday criticized the Aquino administration for certifying as urgent a bill that seeks to postpone the August 8, 2011 election in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Pimentel, principal author of the ARMM law, said the certification betrays the real intention of the government to take “shortcuts” or to rush the passage into law of controversial House Bill 4146.
“What’s the point of consulting the people of ARMM if the administration and its allies in Congress will not heed their ardent wish to push through with the ARMM election as scheduled?” Pimentel said.
“Who are they fooling? The consultations would amount to nothing if the public pulse gained from it is callously disregarded by the administration,” he stressed.
Pimentel pointed out that the President may only certify a bill as urgent to meet a public calamity or national emergency.
“There is no national emergency except an imagined one by those close to the President who want to assume power at ARMM without a legitimate mandate coming from the electorate," he said.
A bill must undergo three readings on three separate days in both houses of Congress except when the President certifies it as urgent.
Earlier, Pimentel had said that holding the ARMM separately from the 2013 national and local election would allow the Commission on Elections, poll watchdogs, the police and military, and all stakeholders to focus on the conduct of the ARMM election.
He added that synchronizing the ARMM election with the national and local elections would dilute attention away from the region, thereby allowing political operators room to maneuver.
If passed into law, HB 4146 would synchronize the ARMM election with the 2013 national and local elections. In lieu of elected ARMM officials, Malacañang wants to appoint officers-in-charge (OICs) to serve until 2013.
During congressional hearings last week in Mindanao, ARMM legislators and community, business, academic and religious leaders, as well as thousands of protesters, strongly opposed the postponement of the ARMM election.
“There is no mistaking the result of the congressional consultations held at ARMM. The people of ARMM want the election to push through in August; they do not buy the many excuses peddled by the administration to support postponement,” said Pimentel.
He added that contrary to the claim of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, an audit of the past expenditures of ARMM need not sacrifice the election there, or that reforms at ARMM can only be undertaken by OICs.