ARMM polls suspension '50-50,' Escudero says

by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 02 2011 10:49 PM | Updated as of Jun 03 2011 08:15 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Senator Francis Escudero sees a vote in the Senate plenary on the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) elections synchronization bill before Congress adjourns its first regular session next week.

Escudero said the bill is still in the period of interpellations.

"Next week before we adjourn, malamang pagbobotohan ito. Dahil certified measure ito, di na kailangan ng 3 araw. Pwede na tumuloy ito (sa botohan)," he said.

Under Senate rules, a bill passed on second reading must wait for 3 days before approval on third reading.

When asked about the bill's chances, Escudero said, "50-50."

The senator said that while he opposes the bill, he is not going to block a vote.

Escudero said there are schools of thought on the majority needed to approve the measure.

Senator Franklin Drilon reportedly said a simple majority of the quorum is needed. 

Others, meanwhile, think that a 2/3 vote of the chamber is needed since it is an amendment of the ARMM Organic Act.

Escudero noted that the bill's House version was passed by 2/3 of the membership.

He, however, said that he will not join groups planning to question the legality of the measure before the Supreme Court (SC).

Escudero, meantime, defended Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. from accusations he wanted to torpedo the bill.

He said if Marcos wanted to do that, his fellow lawmaker could have just sat on the bill and not send a committee report to the plenary for its consideration.

Escudero said Marcos had 30 session days to discharge a committee report, which he has not consumed.

He added that the bill was an afterthought since it was filed before they went on summer break.

Escudero believes that a special session may be called or the Senate may just stop its legislative clock to give legislators time to vote.

He said that he does not necessarily share the same views with President Benigno Aquino III even if they are allies.

Escudero expressed surprise that Drilon claimed RA 9333 is unconstitutional. Escudero says only the SC can rule a law unconstitutional.

He said that argument should have been raised in the Supreme Court, and not as a basis to pass a bill postponing the elections.

Escudero, meantime, noted that the power of the President to appoint officers in charge (OICs) in the ARMM is being based on his residual power and supervisory power over local government units.

He said there is no clear provision that allows the President to name OICs.

Escudero, however, pointed out that the ARMM law provides for special elections to fill in vacancies.

He proposed that Aquino instead name one of the elected governors, vice governors, and assemblymen as OICs so that they at least still have a mandate.

Escudero said other grounds being used to cancel the elections like reforming the ARMM should have been done in the last year.