DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/03 April) – Of the country’s 52 million voters, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s 1.3 million voters will spend the longest time in the polling precincts in May because they will not only elect national and local officials but regional as well.
While voters in other towns nationwide need to shade only 30 or 31 ovals on the left side of the candidates’ names for 12 senators, one party-list representative, one Congressional representative, one governor, one vice governor, four or five provincial board members, one mayor, one vice mayor and eight municipal board members, ARMM voters have to shade five more for the regional governor, regional vice governor and three members of the Regional Legislative Assembly (RLA) per district.
Lawyer Ray Sumalipao, regional director of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the ARMM, told MindaNews the estimated shading time for each ballot in the ARMM is five minutes.
Voters in Basilan and Tawi-tawi need to shade 35 ovals because Basilan has only eight provincial board members and voters elect four per district. But a voter in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Sulu, need to shade 36 ovals because they have a ten-member board and voters elect five per district.
ARMM is the only region in the country where voters will experience synchronized elections at the national, local and regional level.
ARMM voters will elect two governors and two vice governors — provincial and regional – and five sets of legislators: Senator, House Representative, Regional Assemblyman, Provincial Board Member and Municipal Councilor.
At stake in the ARMM election which was supposed to have been held on August 8 last year, are 26 posts – governor, vice governor and 24 assemblyman at three per congressional district.
The Citizens Coalition for ARMM Electoral Reforms, Inc. (Citizens CARE), a Comelec-accredited election watchdog, is fielding 7,000 volunteers to assist in voter’s information and values education in the ARMM provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.
Citizens CARE Executive Director Salic Ibrahim told MindaNews that part of the voters’ education would be to show them a template of the ballots that are available for downloading at the Comelec website.
A total of 94 candidates are running for the ARMM’s 26 posts.
Six candidates, including OIC ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman and former ARMM Governor Nur Misuari are running for ARMM Governor, eight are running for Vice Governor and 80 are running for the 24 regional assembly seats.
Aside from Hataman, who is the Liberal Party’s candidate, and Misuari (Independent), also running for Governor are former Sultan Kudarat Governor and Representative Pax Mangudadatu (Ind.) former Agrarian Reform regional director Yusoph Mama (Ind.), Elsie New Orejudos (Ind.) and Aisha Fatima Buena Prudencio (Democratic Party of the Philippines).
Hataman, former three-term Anak Mindanaw party-list Representative, took over the ARMM as OIC Governor on December 22, 2011.
Misuari is the longest serving ARMM Governor in the 23-year old ARMM. Misuari, founding chair of the Moro National Liberation Front who signed the Final Peace Agreement with the Philippine government on September 2, 1996 and was elected a full week later, served as Governor from September 30, 1996 until his arrest off Sabah on November 24, 2001.
Mangudadatu is uncle of reelectionist Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu (LP).
Running for vice governor are former ARMM Local Governments Secretary Haroun Alrashid Alonto Lucman (LP), Pundatoon Sultan Bagol (Ompia Party), Sultan Bob Datimbang (Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino), Bashier Manalao (PDP-Laban), and Independent candidates Mesug Manaloco, Abdulaziz Mangandaki, Marconi Curso Paiso, and Pundato Sharief.
There are 80 candidates running for 24 RLA seats at three per congressional district: 11 in Basilan’s lone district; nine in Tawi-tawi; 17 in Lanao del Sur – nine in District 1, eight in District 2; 31 in Maguindanao – 12 in District 1, 19 in District 2; and 13 in Sulu – four in the first district and eight in the second district.
Last year, a general re-registration was held in the ARMM, a region that has repeatedly been described as the nation’s “cheating capital” every election.
Comelec records show that in the May 2010 Presidential polls, ARMM had 1,882,338 voters. This year’s record shows ARMM has 1,300,479 registered voters.
In December, the Comelec removed 280,077 underage and multiple registrants. A report of the Philippine Star on December 3, 2012 quoted ARMM Comelec director Sumalipao as saying that the Election Registration Board hearings on November 26 to 30 “found thatthere were 250,773 multiple registrants and 29,304 underage applicants that tried to have themselves listed in the 10-day general re-registration of voters in the region last July.”
The ARMM election, synchronized with the local and national polls on May 13, will be the seventh and last elections in the 23-year old ARMM.
Following the October 15, 2012 signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) between the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a 15-member Transition Commission has been formed to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law in preparation for the “new autonomous political entity” called “Bangsamoro” that will replace the ARMM.
The supposed three-year term of office of ARMM officials from 2013 will be cut short as soon as the Basic Law shall have been passed by Congress and ratified by the people in the Bangsamoro and the ARMM is deemed abolished, according to the FAB.
The ARMM’s functions will then be taken over by the Bangsamoro Transition Authority until the first set of Bangsamoro officials shall have been elected in May 2016 and sworn into office by noon of June 30, 2016. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)