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Groups push for ARMM reforms


DAVAO CITY – At least 500 youth from various sectors in Mindanao joined a torch parade Tuesday calling for the postponement of elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the institution of immediate reforms in the region.

Dubbed 'Torch March for Reform', the parade was organized by I am for Peace and Development in Mindanao (iPAD Mindanao), an aggrupation of civil society organizations operating in ARMM and neighboring regions.

Convenors of the iPAD Mindanao said they are supporting President Aquino's move to cleanse the system of governance in ARMM by postponing the ARMM elections and appointing a transition government whose leaders will be barred from running in the next election in 2013.

Aquino will push as a priority measure for the postponement of ARMM polls in August when the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) meets on February 28.

"There will be no real election and real democracy if electoral fraud and corruption are allowed to persist in ARMM. We believe that the postponement of the ARMM election is a decisive step to institute immediate political and electoral reforms," lawyer Mangandog Manding, iPAD Mindanao lead convenor, said.

The Aquino administration has yet to decide whether or not the current officials installed in the aftermath of the Maguindanao massacre will remain in office. It can be recalled that ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan and members of his immediate family, a large political clan holding power over mainland ARMM were accused of masterminding the November 23 Maguindanao massacre and subsequently ousted from office.

"We are not for the hold over capacity of current ARMM officials, we are for leadership and system change. Our struggle for reform is for the installation of corrupt-free and non-trapo leaders that will bring about system change and work for the reform agenda of the peoples," iPAD Mindanao said.

"The Bangsamoro's history in Mindanao is replete with violence and sacrifice. The ARMM for one was born out of the gains earned by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in their struggle for their Right to Self Determination. We want to honor the sacrifice our elders have done by making sure that this time around, the ARMM government will work for its people," said Kimzan Kamaluddin, president of the iPAD Mindanao Youth Convenor and a represenative of the Sama tribe from Tawi-Tawi.

A simultaneously activity was also launched in Manila by iPAD Mindanao in partnership with Kaya Natin Movement and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) with the holding of Muslim-Christian dialogue at Ilustrado Restaurant, Intramuros, Manila.

The iPAD Mindanao is supported by Aksyon Mindanao, Muslim Atenista, Tasbikka, United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD), Timuay Justice and Good Governance, PAKAT Organization, Ally Bridges and Linx, Inc., Teduray-Lambangian Youth and Student Association, Lumaya Ka Mindanao, Maradeka, Isulanen for Peace and Development Inc. (IPDI), and National Bangsamoro Youth (NABAYA). In Manila among its prominent partners are: Kaya Natin Movement, Ateneo School of Governance and the Ranao Professional Club.

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