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Robredo says ARMM needs reforms, dissenters cry ‘double standards’

DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo
DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo
MARAWI CITY – Amid overwhelming rejection by Maranaos of House Bill 4146 at a hearing here Saturday, Aquino administration officials have said the measure ought to be passed so as to rid the Autonomous Region in Muslim (ARMM) of graft practices and private armies and pave way for "meaningful autonomy" in the region.

Interior and Local Governments Sec. Jessie Robredo briefly addressed over 8,000 locals who protested the bill's intent to defer the ARMM polls in August 2011 to May 2013 and allow the President to appoint officers in-charge as "caretakers" of 26 elective regional positions.

Robredo said the Aquino regime would want to pursue more reforms in ARMM that started with last year's financial audit on the region's spending and initially discovered an alleged misuse of P1-billion fund under the regime of detained Regional Governor Zaldy Ampatuan.

Robredo said that under the present administration of Acting Regional Governor Ansaruddin Adiong, Robredo said "some reforms" have taken place but there still are needs to rid the regional governance of the "remnants of the past.

He said the passage of HB 4146 would enable the Aquino government to fix the electoral system in the region, starting with the dismantling of politicians' private armies.

But the local chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines said the intent of the planned reform would not be derailed by the holding of the elections, because elections would not prevent the government from charging anyone it thought had committed wrong.

Basari Mapupuno, local IBP chapter president and former law dean at the Mindanao State University, the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) under the Aquino government has been "ironically meddling into the affairs of the autonomous region on the basis of a decree issued by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo."

Mapupuno was referring to Presidential Administrative Order No. 273, which was decreed by Arroyo in November 2009 relegating to the DILG the region's administrative supervision from the Office of the President. The order was issued shortly after the Maguindanao massacre on Nov. 23, 2009, for which members of the Ampatuan clan have been indicted.

Advocates of electoral reforms and moral governance have lamented the "double standard" scheme of President Aquino's allies in justifying the passage of HB 4146.

Jimmy Tulawie, a Tausog student here, said the ARMM polls delay proponents seemed "very biased" against "remnants of the past" but "they should realize that Zaldy Ampatuan gained Malacañang anointment in 2005 elections on recommendation of the Presidential Screening committee headed by then Sec. Ging Deles, now a key proponent of HB 4146.

Tulawie said the proponents' touted campaign against private armies should also "start with their local allies like Sulu Governor Sakur Tan," who had earlier admitted before journalists having under his watch "more than 5,000 armed sympathizers," 2,000 of whom are CVOs organized and sworn-in by then Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro in 2009.

Tulawie said former Sulu Vice Governor Nur Anna Sahidullah, now Congresswoman of the province's second district, had protested Gov. Tan's acquisition in 2009 of two MX-8 Barako armored vehicles. Sulu police had said the war vehicles were placed under their care.

Speaking casually to journalists in Cotabato City, ARMM Regional Police Director Chief Supt. Bienvenido Latag said the "real threats" to security in the region are "not the rebels but the politicians maintaining private armies." (With reports from Ali G. Macabalang)

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