Hataman dared to relinquish ARMM post

OIC-Governor Mujiv Hataman /Photo by UNTV
COTABATO CITY - Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao OIC-Governor Mujiv Hataman, who seeks mandate for the ARMM’s top post in the coming synchronized polls, has been dared to resign for the sake of delicadeza and the policy of President Aquino III on tuwid na daan (straight path).
Electoral reform advocates and supporters of other candidates in ARMM aired the challenge yesterday as stakeholders started gearing up for the March 30 start of official campaign for local positions in the May 13, 2013 national, regional and local polls.
“For Hataman to meaningfully carry out his touted mission for administrative and electoral reforms in ARMM, he has no better option than resigning,” said a supporter of Nur Misuari, founding chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) now vying for the ARMM governorship he held previously.
Corroborating the call, local poll watchers said there can be “no fair playing field” in the ARMM election unless Hataman steps down and face his competitors squarely.
Hataman is running for ARMM governor under the ruling Liberal Party (LP) against five contenders that include Misuari, former Agrarian Reform regional director Yusoph Mama, ex-Sultan Kudarat governor and Congressman Pax Mangudadatu. The two other aspirants are female unknown in the political arena.
Local political pundits described the four-corned contest as “evenly reflective” of tribal representations. Hataman belongs to the Yakan tribe of Basilan, Misuari of the Tausog and Sama tribes in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, Mama of the Maranao tribe of Lanao, and Mangudadatu of the Maguindanaon tribe.
But rival camps’ supporters claimed that Hataman wields “profuse advantage” because he has “access” to the regional government resources and the long-structured political machinery in ARMM, whose five provincial governors are also LP members, they said. 
They cited, for instance, the ARMM’s convergent program on health, education, livelihood, peace and security (HELPS) services, which Hataman has been conducting region-wide since February.
In July, 2012, the President said his administration has “allocated P13.4 billion for the ARMM Investment Plan in 2013, with interventions in health, education, and infrastructure, among others.”
Foreign funds have also been infused to ARMM. The Australian government has provided P3.9-billion education grant for Hataman’s administration, while Japan allocated last week P36-million funds for various projects in support of its existing multi-billion interventions in the region, published reports said.
Critics have debunked Hatama’s recent pronouncement that he would use “not even a single cent” from government funds, saying that various published photos and news alone showed him ”wearing yellow shirt” and immersing with villagers alongside local officials bearing the ruling party’s political signs.
The President named Hataman as OIC in ARMM in 2011 with a condition that he would not seek election to be able to “focus on reform initiatives” in the region the former tagged as a “failed experiment.”
Legal minds in the Commission on Elections have expressed surprise that nobody is officially protesting Hataman’s continued stay in office after filing his candidacy.
“Anybody can lodge a protest, which may become an acid test in the current administration’s avowed electoral reforms campaign,” said a Comelec lawyer, who asked not to be named for lack of authority to speak for the Commission.
The lawyer said that under the Omnibus Election Code, all appointed officials are deemed resigned upon filing certificates of candidacy.
Hataman is also criticized for alleged ineptness in the Sabah standoff that erupted violently and left 62 people and displaced thousands of Filipinos in the rich Malaysian state.
In his recent pronouncement, however, he accused his detractors of “misusing” the Sabah issue to pin him down and create further confusion.
In separate press briefings, Hataman said he would continue holding office on holdover capacity unless the President orders him to step down.
He claimed that he is in a unique status where his appointment to an elective position is “not covered” by the Omnibus Election Code.
Hataman urged the public to be prudent in issuing statements that may just aggravate the plight of the ARMM citizenry, which includes some of the displaced by the Sabah crisis. 

(With report from Ali G. Macabalang)


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