MANILA, Philippines - "If Malacañang decides to postpone the elections at the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) scheduled this August, what would prevent the incumbent officials now from postponing the mid-term election in 2013?"
Atty. Romulo Macalintal, election lawyer of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, posed this question Friday amid a raging debate on whether or not Congress should synchronize the ARMM polls this August with the 2013 midterm elections.
Macalintal said he does not agree with President Benigno Aquino's proposal that ARMM polls should be delayed and officers-in-charge appointed to take over vacant posts in the ARMM until 2013.
He said that under the law, ARMM officials should be elected and not appointed by Malacañang.
"Being a republican state, we can only be governed by those who have the mandate of the people and not those who were appointed," he said.
He said that if the ARMM polls are postponed, it could set a precedent for the postponement of the 2013 mid-term elections and even the 2016 presidential poll.
As for the time factor, he said the Commission on Elections under Chairman Sixto Brillantes had already announced that they are ready to conduct elections in ARMM this August.
Macalintal said the only thing stopping Comelec from conducting an election in ARMM is an outbreak of violence in the region. In those cases, he said polls are delayed in the areas affected by the violence.
The election lawyer also debunked the proposal that the success of the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front hinge on the postponement of the ARMM polls. "We've been conducting peace talks for years. The peace process can still be continued by the new government that is elected," he said.
He said he believes that Aquino is being misinformed about the proposal to postpone the ARMM polls.
The Comelec has declared that the ARMM elections would be held as scheduled unless there is a bill passed by both chambers of Congress postponing the political exercise. The poll body has already scheduled voters’ registration in ARMM from March 21 to 31.