ARMM elections: An exercise in futility

Jun Mercado, OMI

With all the fanfare and celebration that herald the Framework Agreement between the GPH and the MILF, the scheduled ARMM elections in May 2013 look like a tragic comedy. The Framework Agreement contemplates a different scenario sans the ARMM. In fact, the language used for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is rather harsh and uncalled for. The ARMM is labeled both by GPH and the MILF as a “failed experiment” and “unacceptable.”

If all things go right as scheduled, the ARMM would cease to exist the moment the Bangsamoro Basic Law is enacted by Congress and duly ratified by the people in a referendum called for the purpose. A transitional mechanism called the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority (BTA) would be created and it shall assume all the powers and functions of the ARMM. One of the principal tasks of the BTA is to reframe and reorganize the ARMM bureaucracy into a “ministerial form” of governance.

In clear yet crude language, the ARMM has been “condemned to death.” For all purposes and intent, we are now entering a period where the ARMM represents all that is rejected by the “Bangsamoro” as they await the birthing of a new autonomous political entity.

With the continuing rallies, motorcades, assemblies, and symposia on the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement, we begin to see that the people have now entered into a sort of “wake mood” for the moribund ARMM.

While people speak of Comprehensive Peace Compact (the Framework Agreement plus the four crucial annexes), and the Transitional Commission shaping the Basic Law and BTA, the GPH through the COMELEC prepares for the so-called first synchronized elections in the ARMM in May 2013. In short, millions have already been spent for the electoral reforms in the ARMM and millions more would be spent to conduct an election for a moribund bureaucracy that is the ARMM.

Sad and perhaps tragic is to see a government supposedly walking the matuwid na daan and yet would spend millions in a futile exercise like elections for moribund positions/offices in a condemned region that is afflicted and haunted with so many man-made “ailments,” “disasters” and “ghosts.” The life of the ARMM shall be extinguished by a “common agreement” sometime in late 2014 or early 2015. By then, it is hoped that a new transitional mechanism, the BTA, would be in place. And the ARMM is OBLITERATED!

It is understood by all sundry that there are expenses attached to the “wake” and the “actual funeral” of the ARMM, but to conduct elections for the said moribund bureaucracy is not only illogical but also a waste of resources, time, and energy. The more logical move is simply to cancel the said scheduled synchronized elections (as mandated by RA 10153) and allow the present officers in charge to continue in office until replaced by the BTA.

The newly contemplated Bangsamoro Government (BG) that would be organized post transitional phase is totally a different animal. It would be a “ministerial form” and the powers of this new government are vested in an Assembly elected by the peoples in the constituent units of the Bangsamoro. The Framework Agreement, and by inference also the Basic Law, would provide a new way of “choosing” leaders and members of the Assembly within the Bangsamoro in 2016.

What presently ails the Philippine government is the fact that its leaders think “linear.” People CANNOT continue to think “linear” while there is a groundswell for a new political entity aka Bangsamoro. The “reality” on the ground (through the courtesy of both the GPH and the MILF), is a new “consciousness” and a perception that the Bangsamoro is already “here.” The processes attached to its actual birthing are but necessary transitional phases that have to be undertaken.

In short, the ARMM May Elections are concocted by a linear mind, to say the least, and definitely a futile exercise, to say the worst. Either way, the whole exercise is “contra compass” and “out of tune.” It is high time to call off the “zarzuela.”

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ANTI EPAL: SUSUNOD NA KABANATA

Anti-Epal

PAHAYAG galing sa No More Epal at Dakila

Ika-2 ng Oktubre 2012

Manila — Kahapon nagsimula ang panahon ng kampanya para sa eleksyon sa Mayo 2013. Sa susunod na limang araw, magtatala ng Certificates of Candidacy ang libo-libong mga mapagnasang pulitiko, na umaasang magkamit ng pwesto sa politika. Sa mga nagdaang buwan, ginagamit ng mga pulitikong ito, na kadalasa’y mga nakaupo na sa pwesto, ang lahat ng uring pampublikong lugar at pangyayari, upang maipangalandakan ang mga ngalan nila’t mukha sa isip ng mga botante, sa balatkayong serbisyo-publiko, huwad na kalinawagan at katapatan sa panunungkulan —isang walang-pakundangang ugali na binabatikos ng madla ibang “epal.”

Ang gawing ito ang naging mitsa ng pagkakabuo ng No More Epal Movement. Sa kitang-kita pagkulo’t pag-awas ng masamang sabaw na ito, na nangailangan ng bagong kataga upang lubos na iguhit—epalism o ka-epalan—kumilos sila upang manghiya sa mga pulitikong ito. Tumugon ang madla sa kilusang ito, sa pagpapamalas nila ng kanilang pagkamuhi sa ganitong sobrang-agang kampanya, sa pamamagitan ng social media, mga website, mga blog, mga pahayag, komentaryo, liham sa mga patnugot, and iba pa. Wala ni isang malaya o di lasing na tinig ang maririnig na pumapatol, nagtataguyod, or sumusuporta sa bisyong epal, maliban sa mga nakaupo na mismo.

Epal—ang gawi ng mga pulitikong pumapapel na personal na nagpaganap ng mga proyekto’t programang gumagamit ng kaban ng bayan, na pinapahayag sa pagtapal ng mga ngalan at mukha nila sa kaliitliitang puwang sa pampublikong lugar—ay naiintindihan nilang lamang ng mga lubos na malalim na suliranin ng ating pulitika, kabilang na ang, pulitikang nakasalalay sa mga patron at ninong, ang mga isyung kakabit ng mga pondong pangkampanya, mga kampanyang base sa dating ng personalidad, mga marupok na institusyong pulitika at partido, korupsyon, at mga dinastiya.

Isang sulyap lamang sa mga kampihang maitim na ngayo’y hinuhubog upang makabuo ng hanay ng 12 na kandidato para sa senado, ay isang pagpapamalas ng maraming malalalim na isyu—kung saa’y ang pagwawagi sa kahit anong paraan ang layunin ng mga nagbabalak ng kilos pulitika—na ito nama’y sadyang nagiging kahalili ng mga plataporma ng pamamahala, ng pulitikang batay sa isyu and idyolohiya. Hadlang sa tunay na pagbabagong pulitikal ang mapanlapastangang pananaw na ito.

Walang ilusyon ang No More Epal Movement na sila’y magdudulot ng mabigat na epekto sa kalalabasan ng halalan sa 2013. Ngunit nakikita nila ang darating na halalan bilang pagkakataon para magmasid, at bilang simula ng talakayang publiko. Minumungkahi nila na maging bantay ang madla sa mga darating na buwan hanggang sa eleksyon, sa:

• Kawalan ng makabuluhang talakayan ng mga kandidato tungkol sa mahahalagang isyu ng kalusugang ukol sa panganganak, karapatang pantao, ang kalikasan, mabuting pamamahala, at laban sa korapsyon;
• Ang kawalang-saysay ng mga partidong pulitikal, habang ang mga pulitiko’y wari’y mga paru-parong ikot ng ikot sa iba-t-ibang partido, at nabubuo ng mga kampihang maiitim sa mga dating magkakatunggali;
• Ang pagdodomina ng ilang mga angkan sa larangan ng pulitika, at ang lubhang pagdami ng mga kapamilya nitong mga angkang ito sa maraming pwesto sa pamahalaan, sa kabilang pagbabawal ng dinastiyang pulitikal sa Saligang Batas;
• Ang pag ulit-ulit ng mga luma’t pinag-sawaang mga pangalan upang makamit ulit ang karangalan sa pulitika;
• Ang sobrang paggastos ng mga kandidato’t partido sa harap ng maliwanag na hangganang itinalaga para sa mga kampanya;

• Ang ilegal na paggamit ng kaban ng bayan para sa kampanya ng mga pulitikong nakaupo sa pwesto;
• Ang pagnanaig ng sabwatang pulitikal mula sa lokal hanggang antas-nasyonal;
• Ang kampanyang wari’y sarswela, kung saa’y binubulag ang madla ng kinang at malimata, awit at sayaw, na nagpapa-iral ng pambobobo ng taumbayan, sa halip ng tunay na debate at talakayan tungkol sa mga isyu, mga plataporma’t programa ng pamamahala.

Sanhi itong uri ng pulitikang ito ang marami sa mga karamdaman ng bayan, lalu na ang pagbihag ng elit ng larangan pulitikal at kalakalan, ng estado—na sanhi naman ng pagbaluktot ng mga patakaran at pagpapasya upang paboran ang makitid na interes ng mga makapangyarihang mga angkan at malalalaking negosyo; at ng pangungurakot at korapsyon. Binabakuran ng ganitong pulitia ang kapangyarihan sa kamay ng matatatag na kamag-anakan pulitikal, habang ang taumbayan ay ninanakawan ng kapangyarihan. Itinataguyod nito ang pulitika ng pagnininong—na matinding ipinapamalas ng pag-agaw ng mga pulitiko ng utang na loob ng taumbayan, na parang ang mga pulitiko pa ang kailangang bigyang-pugay at pasalamatan.

Palatandaan lamang ang epal ng isang bulok na sistemang pulitikang na hindi tumutugon sa pangangailan at adhikain ng mga taong dapat pagsilbihan. Ibabaling na ngayon ang diskusyon ukol sa epal, mula sa palantandaan ng karamdaman tungo sa karamdaman na mismo; upang harapin, unawain, at agarang ihanap ng lunas ang mga malalim na suliraning gumugulo sa ating pulitika at sistemang pulitikal.

Peaceful polls seen in ARMM

10:25 pm | Monday, October 1st, 2012

COTABATO CITY—With the way matches are shaping up for next year’s midterm polls, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) may be leaving behind a history of election-related violence that peaked in 2009 with the massacre of 58 people in Maguindanao.

Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu, whose wife and other relatives were among those killed in the massacre, will be challenged by Mayor Tocao Mastura of Sultan Kudarat town in what many believe could be Maguindanao’s first ever bloodless balloting.

“The campaign format will be above board, no mudslinging, no hitting below the belt and anchored on Islamic beliefs that uttering bad words against another is forbidden,” Mastura said.

Mastura used to be the provincial chair of the Liberal Party (LP), but the “equity of the incumbent” policy forced him to run under the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban). Mangudadatu, the LP standard-bearer, will seek a second term.

“Despite this, I still believe and pursue the daang matuwid (righteous road) campaign of President Benigno Aquino III,” Mastura said.

Both candidates have expressed willingness to sign a peace covenant.

In Basilan, acting Gov. Mujiv Hataman of ARMM said he had already cleared the path to political reconciliation by bringing two erstwhile rival families—the Akbars and the Hatamans—to run in one slate. He described the development as the “first in the history of Basilan.”

Last week, Basilan Gov. Jum Akbar was officially proclaimed a reelectionist candidate, while Hataman’s elder brother, Rep. Jim Hataman, will seek another term instead of going against Akbar.

Vice Gov. Al Rasheed Sakalahul’s eldest son, Kim, will run for his father’s post.

“Aside from preventing election-related violence, this election will be less expensive. Elected officials, as they are perceived to be, will not be forced to engage in corrupt practices once they assume office because they would not be thinking about how much they have spent in the campaign,” Hataman said.

Most of the candidates are running unopposed.

Hataman said Sulu Gov. Anbusakur Tan was also talking with candidates to run in one ticket. Tan himself gave up his plan to run for ARMM governor against Hataman, who was chosen by President Aquino as the administration candidate, according to sources.

In North Cotabato, Rep. Jesus Sacdalan reportedly backed out from his plan to challenge Gov. Lala Taliño-Mendoza in her reelection bid and would instead seek another term. Mendoza’s top rival, former Gov. Manny Piñol, was reportedly prodded by Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, LP president, to run for representative of the third district.

With this arrangement, Mendoza agreed that there would be “less tension” in the electoral races.

Second District Rep. Nancy Catamco is seeking reelection and will be challenged by Vice Gov. Gregorio Ipong and former Rep. Bernardo Piñol, Jr. Edwin O. Fernandez, Julie S. Alipala and Williamor Magbanua, Inquirer Mindanao

Source: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/280942/peaceful-polls-seen-in-armm

The perils of the 2013 ARMM elections…?

Jun Mercado, OMI

 

There is a heated “debate” on whether the present officers in charge (both in the executive and regional legislative assembly) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao should file the certificates of candidacy (COC) for the 2013 ARMM Elections on not. The “source” of the debate is the expressed desire of the President during the search for OICs that the “appointees” should NOT run for the scheduled ARMM Elections in May 2013.

There is NO legal impediment for the present OICs to file their COCs for the May 2013 Elections. The OICs’ hesitation to pursue the filing of their COCs flows from the articulated wish of the President. They believe that as OICs they, too, serve at the pleasure of the President.

The problem occurs, because the intended reforms in the ARMM bureaucracy actually work or are beginning to bear fruit. The President himself has recognized the ARMM OIC Governor as “Ghostbuster” in his 2012 SONA. Governor Mujiv Hataman has faced squarely the prevailing malaise in the bureaucracy and issue of ghost teachers, ghost employees, ghost projects, ghost schools and ghost pupils/students.

The ARMM bureaucracy has become functional by simple introduction of biometrics for the daily time record, direct payments of salaries through the employees’ ATMs, and adopting a policy of transparency through the use of computer portal where projects, programs and transactions in the ARMM are accessible for proper accounting.

What would happen now…? Would the President abandon the reform track and abandon the ARMM electoral contest between and among the clans and trapos again…? Would a simple wish that was stated during the search for the OIC be the paramount consideration for the ARMM Elections in May 2013?

The normal way is for the administration to consolidate the gains of reforms and allow the people of the ARMM become the final arbiter whether or not the reforms truly respond to their dreams and aspiration.

The discussion among civil society and other stakeholders in the ARMM lies precisely on the issue of allowing the ARMM constituents to decide and approve or disapprove the reform platform during the May 2013 Elections. By doing so, the ARMM constituents would have the real say on the ongoing ARMM reforms and on the team that banners the said new politics.

Moreover, the May 2013 ARMM Elections should NOT be taken as separate issues from the ongoing peace talks with the MILF. In the likelihood of an agreement, the outcome would be the drafting of a new Basic Law (Organic Act) that would pave the way for the “birthing” of a New Autonomous Political Entity (NAPE) that would take the place of the ARMM.

The so-called transitional period and the transitional mechanism that would come out of any agreement between the GPH and the MILF should all happen within the “time” of the present Aquino Presidency, that is, until end of June 2016. Beyond 2016, the President cannot commit anything.

It is crucial that the “winners” in the ARMM Elections in 2013 would NOT be obstacles to the bigger picture of “entrenching the New Autonomous Political Entity.” Concretely it would mean the passage of the New Basic law, the plebiscite, the determination of the coverage of the NAPE, and the “transitional” mechanism should be in place by 2015.

It is “desired” that the May 2016 elections in the NAPE would take place on the basis of a new Basic Law.

In the real measurement of things, what are at stake and in peril in the present ARMM Elections are not only the reforms taking place in the bureaucracy but the bigger picture of peace and the possible birthing of a new government structure. It is the hope and prayer that the NAPE truly empowers the peoples not only on their local affairs but also on the control and supervision of the resources within their ancestral domain.