DILG secretary: Postponing polls to ‘clean up’ ARMM

Local Governments Secretary Jesse Robredo on Monday said that if elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) were held on August 8 as scheduled, then it will not be credible and cannot guarantee reforms.

Robredo said during a press conference Monday in Malacañang that postponing the ARMM polls to 2013 will allow government to clean up the voters’ lists of “flying voters," get rid of command votes, dismantle the remaining 41 private armed groups, ensure peace and order, and reform and strengthen the bureaucracy.

“May saysay lang iyong mga halalan kung matahimik iyong lugar," he said.

“So we are saying, let’s improve the electoral process, let’s dismantle the private armed groups. Let’s bring about an environment wherein people can really choose," he said.

He said the elections in ARMM have already been postponed eight times before. “So why is this ninth time being questioned?" he asked.

P3-4 billion ‘squandered’

“I think it has been mentioned, that the ARMM government is really a failed experiment, in the sense that we have not delivered the outcomes," Robredo said.

He said four Commission on Audit (COA) reports showed that P3 billion to P4 billion were squandered by former ARMM officials. He said in the first COA report on expenses in 2008-2009, more than P1 billion could not be accounted for.

He said cases are already being readied against ARMM officials including former Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan. He said some of ARMM public officials who were responsible for the fund misuse still remain in office.

The secretary said that the 1Aquino government only needs 20 months to clean up the ARMM bureaucracy and bring governance and services in ARMM up to national standards.

He said the Philippine National Police (PNP), which is under his department, might set up a satellite regional office in Sulu province to ensure peace and security in the ARMM.

ARMM polls, peace process

“Elections are always divisive exercises. We want to focus first on fixing the problems. We want to postpone the elections not because we are worried that the administration bet will not win but because the reforms may not continue," Robredo said.

Presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita Deles said postponing the ARMM polls would also speed up the peace talks between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“Election will add another layer of violence in the area…Elections usually cause polarization," she said.

“The people who are voters of ARMM will be the constituency affected by the peace process," she added.

Deles said the government peace panel is confident that the government can meet its target of forging a final peace pact with the MILF in 18 months. — MRT/VS, GMA News

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