Palace to Senate: Put ARMM bill to vote

Posted on May 26, 2011

THE ADMINISTRATION is still banking on congressional approval of poll postponement in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), appealing to the completion of a committee report so that the bill may be brought to a plenary vote.

Addressing concerns that several senators are against the Palace-backed move, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda yesterday challenged Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" R. Marcos, Jr., chairman of the committee on local government, to bring the issue to a vote.

"It deserves a vote in the Senate. We understand his position, he’s against postponing it, but wouldn’t it be better for the senator if it’s brought out in the plenary and let the senators debate on it and come up with a final vote rather than just archiving it?" said Mr. Lacierda in an ambush interview at the Palace.

"It would be a disservice to the stakeholders in ARMM to let the bill go to be archived... so we would urge Senator Bongbong Marcos: bring out the committee report and let it be voted. It deserves an up or down vote... let the entire Senate body decide on the bill itself and not unilaterally allow the bill to be archived, let the senators debate on it," he added.

Mr. Lacierda pointed out that Senate Juan Ponce Enrile has said that the bill is "not yet dead in the water."

"We share the same confidence as Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile," said Mr. Lacierda.

Earlier this month, President Benigno S. C. Aquino III had met with his allies in the Senate, particularly those from the Liberal Party, to lobby for ARMM poll postponement.

The proposal is to move the Aug. 8 elections to coincide with the 2013 midterm polls to allow for reforms in the region before new leaders are chosen.

The House of Representatives in March had approved the bill on third and final reading, while the counterpart Senate Bill 2756 of Senator Franklin M. Drilon, a duplicate of House Bill 4146, is pending at the committee level.

Senators have questioned the constitutionality of giving the President authority to appoint officers-in-charge in ARMM once incumbent elected officials end their term on Sept. 30.

A source from the Marcos camp who asked not to be named told BusinessWorld that the senator has scheduled a final hearing on May 31, inviting as resource persons Local Government Secretary Jesse M. Robredo, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Q. Deles and Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs Ronald M. Llamas.

Mr. Marcos will be submitting a committee report after the hearing, the senator’s aide said. -- Johanna Paola D. Poblete