The Inbox

ARMM leaders urged to commit to clean and honest polls

Click on Father Mercado's photo to watch his interview

Text and Interview by Artha Kira Paredes, Photos and Video by AMIEL MARK CAGAYAN

VERA Files

COTABATO CITY— Local leaders in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) need to change their old habits by committing to clean and honest elections, said an Oblate priest who used to head the panel negotiating peace with Muslim rebel groups.

Father Eliseo Mercado, former chair of the peace panel with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said, "Kung ang mga politiko ay nasa dating gawi pa rin nila, no amount ng bagong registration at ng voters list ay magpapabago ng habit dito o ng kultura (If politicians continue with their old habits, then no new registration or voters' list can change the existing culture)," he said.

The ARMM, deemed the "electoral fraud capital of the republic," went through a general voters' registration from July 9 to 18 to cleanse its book of voters.

Among the reasons the ARMM's voters' book was annulled was that the region had the most number of multiple registrants based on the fingerprint matching done by the Commission on Elections. Other issues hounding its electoral process include the minors casting their votes for a fee and hakot or transporting voters from one precinct to another by the hundreds.

"Kung meron commitment yung LGU (local government unit) at lahat ng clean and honest elections magagawa naman yun... pero ang nakita ko eh words lang yung commitment (If LGUs commit to clean and honest elections, then it is possible but from what I see their commitment is just lip service)," Mercado said.

The former president of the Notre Dame College in Cotabato City also said that it might be better for the region to have its own system of selecting leaders because the electoral process requires "high political awareness" which could be difficult because of people's lack of education and dependence on politicians in ARMM.

Based on National Statistical and Coordination Board's (NSCB) Gross Enrolment Ratio of primary and secondary schools in the country's 17 regions, ARMM had the lowest school enrolment rates from school years 2002 to 2003 to 2010 to 2011. NSCB's 2003 data also show that ARMM had the lowest literacy rate and functional literacy rate at 70.2 and 62.9, respectively.

Mercado said it might be best for families in the region to forge agreements on who should be running. This kind of compromise among town and provincial leaders, he said, has been proven and tested to lessen conflict killings and expenses.

The region should employ its "own way of choosing their own leaders" and not just be copycats of the processes of Luzon and Visayas, said Mercado, who is also the director of the non-government organization Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) whose main thrust is making autonomy "an effective vehicle for peace and development in Southern Philippines."

Mercado, who took Islamic Studies at the Gregorian University in Rome and who counts among his areas of expertise Islam's role in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, suggests that the Regional Legislative Assembly (RLA) enact election laws in the region.

ARMM was established through Republic Act 6734 or the Organic Act for ARMM in 1989. This was to "to provide its basic structure of government within the framework of the Constitution and national sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines, and to ensure the peace and equality before the law of all people in the Autonomous Region."

The regions consist of the provinces of Basilan (except Isabela City that voted no), Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao plus the two cities of Lamitan and Marawi.

In the 2004 elections where the victory of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as president was marred with accusations of rigging votes in Mindanao, Maguindanao was mentioned in the alleged wiretapped conversation of Arroyo with Comelec Commisioner Virgilio Garcillano.

(ARMM WATCH is a project of VERA Files in partnership with MindaNews, The Asia Foundation and Australian Agency for International Development. VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for "true.")


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • ‘Next leader must not be newbie’
    ‘Next leader must not be newbie’

    Vice President Jejomar Binay believes the next president of the Philippines must have vast experience and a long track record in governance and in dealing with crises. “I am very much convinced that the local government is the best training ground for those who want to run for national government positions,” he said. Binay said he is determined to run for president in 2016 on the strength of his competence and track record. …

  • Massacre suspect tests negative for poisoning
    Massacre suspect tests negative for poisoning

    A suspect in the Maguindanao massacre case who had been examined at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) tested negative for poisoning, medical records released yesterday showed. However, the Quezon City court handling the multiple murder case resolved to isolate Police Officer 1 Pia Kamidon from the rest of the accused detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig for his safety. In a two-page order, Regional Trial Court Branch 221 assisting Judge Genie Gapas-Agbada ordered jail officials to …

  • ‘Homework first before Facebook’
    ‘Homework first before Facebook’

    President Aquino elicited laughter from students here as he reminded them to open books first before Facebook. “Finish your assignments first before making a raid in the Clash of Clans,” Aquino said, referring to a popular online game. In a speech during the turnover yesterday of two new three-story buildings at the Tarlac National High School, he said the government could only provide opportunities for learning but the rest of the work would be up to the students. The new school buildings …

  • Espina resignation confirmed; Noy looks for replacement
    Espina resignation confirmed; Noy looks for replacement

    President Aquino ended speculations yesterday and confirmed that Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina had indeed resigned as officer-in-charge of the Philippine National Police. As of this time, we are conducting various interviews and checks on the various candidates,” Aquino told reporters at the Tarlac National High School in Tarlac City. Aquino had kind words for Espina, saying that he stood by and defended the 44 slain police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in the operation in …

  • Palace welcomes G7 concern over sea reclamation
    Palace welcomes G7 concern over sea reclamation

    President Aquino welcomed yesterday the Group of Seven industrialized countries’ expression of concern over rising tension in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, calling it a clear indication of the global scope of the problem ramped up by China’s massive reclamation activities in disputed waters. In Tarlac City where he led the turnover of new classrooms, Aquino told reporters that goodwill and not tension must prevail in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, where territorial …

  • DepEd, TESDA tie up for K to 12
    DepEd, TESDA tie up for K to 12

    The Department of Education (DepEd) has partnered with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in the first two years of implementation of the K to 12 program. “We will use TESDA centers as technical-vocational laboratories for senior high school,” DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro said during the inauguration of 30 new classrooms at the Tarlac National High School yesterday. The classrooms were constructed in partnership with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. …

  • SE Asia Stocks-Philippine falls on foreign selling; others flat to weaker

    BANGKOK, April 17 (Reuters) - Southeast Asian stock markets ended flat to weaker on Friday as Philippine stocks slid on selling led by foreign funds and Singapore shares extended losses with investors ... …

  • Philippine Airlines parent says back in black
    Philippine Airlines parent says back in black

    Philippine Airlines' parent firm said it had returned to profitability, the first time in three years either entity reported being in the black for an entire year. In a filing with the Philippine Stock Exchange Thursday, PAL Holdings reported an after-tax net profit of 129.74 million pesos ($2.93 million) in its fiscal year to December 31. …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options