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.

  • Philippines backs support for small enterprises at APEC meet

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines' top trade official on Saturday called for support for the integration of micro, small and medium enterprises in global trade, which he said would help reduce poverty and inequality in the Asia-Pacific region. …

  • US renews travel warning to Mindanao
    US renews travel warning to Mindanao

    The US State Department renewed its warning about the risks of travel to the Philippines, in particular to the Sulu archipelago, certain regions and cities of Mindanao and the southern Sulu Sea area. In an update on Wednesday of a travel warning it issued Nov. 20, 2014, the State Department said US citizens should continue to defer non-essential travel to the Sulu archipelago due to the high threat of kidnapping of international travelers and violence linked to insurgency and terrorism there. …

  • Phl gains support for APEC Action Agenda
    Phl gains support for APEC Action Agenda

    The Philippine initiative to put the interests of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) front and center in global and regional trade has made significant progress following the conclusion on Thursday of the 2nd APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM2) and Related Meetings in Boracay, Aklan. Called “The Boracay Action Agenda to Globalize MSMEs,” the Philippine proposal calls for a host of specific, concrete and practical interventions that APEC economies can implement to provide MSMEs wider …

  • Phl to join Bangkok meet on Rohingya crisis next week
    Phl to join Bangkok meet on Rohingya crisis next week

    The Philippines will join a 15-nation meeting in Bangkok, Thailand next week to address the migration crisis involving thousands of Rohingyas who escaped persecution in Myanmar and Bangladesh. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima bared this yesterday after meeting with United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) representative to the Philippines Bernard Kerblat. In an interview, De Lima said the Philippine government has been invited to the meeting. …

  • Magnitude 4.2 quake jolts Sorsogon
    Magnitude 4.2 quake jolts Sorsogon

    LEGAZPI CITY—A magnitude 4.2 earthquake hit Prieto Diaz town in Sorsogon before dawn yesterday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said. …

  • Drought-resistant rice breeds bared
    Drought-resistant rice breeds bared

    SCIENCE CITY OF MUÑOZ, Nueva Ecija – Amid the searing heat, the Philippine Rice Research Institute central experiment station here has identified nine rice breeds which have been proven to be drought-resistant and produce high yields in temperatures as high as 38°C based on a recent study. Thelma Padolina, lead researcher of the study titled “Screening of rice-induced mutants for heat and drought tolerance,” identified the breeding lines as the Ballatinaw lines, PSB Rc72H and Azucena lines. …

  • Phl, US assert rights, ignore China warning
    Phl, US assert rights, ignore China warning

    The United States military will continue air and sea patrols in international waters even after the Chinese navy repeatedly warned a US surveillance plane to leave the airspace over artificial islands China is creating in the disputed South China Sea. The Philippine government also declared it would continue activities in the region, calling on China to respect freedom of navigation and aviation. “Our position on the importance of letting freedom of navigation, freedom of aviation and …

  • MM shutdown eyed for quake drill; 6 schools warned
    MM shutdown eyed for quake drill; 6 schools warned

    Electricity and mobile phone services would be cut throughout Metro Manila, and all private and government offices and businesses, including shopping malls, would be closed. That would be the situation on July 16 between 3 and 8 p.m. to simulate the scenario of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has warned that an earthquake of that magnitude could occur and kill at least 33,500 people and injure at least 113,600 others following a …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options