MAKATI CITY (MindaNews/23 June) – The campaign period for the August 8 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) begins Friday, June 24 with former Sultan Kudarat Governor Pax Mangudadatu and Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco, the PDP’s candidates for governor and vice governor, firing their opening salvo with a “leaders’ forum” in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao, Cojuangco’s poll advisor, Annie Andanar said.
Congress in early June passed a bill resetting the August 8 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to synchronize it with the May 13, 2013 national mid-term elections and to allow President Aquino to appoint officers-in-charge in the interim but the bill he earlier certified as urgent, has yet to be signed into law.
Mr. Aquino is scheduled to sign it on June 30, a full year after he took his oath of office as President.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles told MindaNews the signing has been scheduled for June 30 to allow the bill’s sponsors to witness the signing.
House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman said President Aquino is deliberately delaying the signing to deny the Supreme Court time to rule on the expected petitions questioning the new law.
The law presently governing the ARMM mandates a 45-day campaign period for the elections that are supposed to be held every three years.
James Jimenez, spokesperson of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) told MindaNews immediately after the approval of the bill that Comelec will “stop preparations as soon as it is signed into law. The law should be considered sound until overturned.”
On June 23, he told MindaNews that because the bill has not been signed into law, they have not issued a notice stopping all election activities “so technically, the calendar of activities (in relation to the August 8 polls) will still be in force. Hence, the campaign period will start as scheduled.”
Andanar told MindaNews, “we are embarking on an alternative campaign beginning tomorrow, June 24.” She said they will hold a “leaders’ forum” at 6 p.m. tomorrow in Datu Odin Sinsuat town, Maguindanao, where Cojuangco has a house and where her voter’s registration was transferred.
Cojuangco is an aunt of President Benigno Simeon Aquino.
Andanar said the “leaders’ forum” will be held after the celebration of Mangudadatu’s birthday also tomorrow in Sultan Kudarat province. Mangudadatu, former governor and representative of Sultan Kudarat province transferred his voter’s registration to Buluan town in Maguindanao early last year. Sultan Kudarat province is not part of the ARMM.
She said there will be “no big rallies,” adding there will be “maximum interaction with the community formal and informal leaders, dialogues to engage the voters to participate in the exercise of their right to elect their regional officials under the organic law RA 9054.”
To the Supreme Court
Earlier, groups against the postponement of the August 8 polls had signified they would go to the Supreme Court to question the validity of the new law but no petition can be filed as yet because the bill has not been signed into law.
“The PDP-Laban, Pax Mangudadatu and I are definitely going to the Supreme Court to convince the high tribunal that pushing through with the August 8, 2011 elections was what the Constitution mandates,” the Manila Standard quoted Cojuangco as saying in its June 8 report.
Cojuangco said they were confident the Supreme Court will rule in their favor. “The Supreme Court will see in our petition that the Constitution grants the people of ARMM the freedom to choose their own leaders and the naming of OICs by the President is contrary to what is mandated by the Constitution,” she said.
Fourteen candidates for governor and 16 for vice governor filed their certificates of candidacy as of the deadline midnight of May 25.
Only two political parties fielded candidates: PDP-Laban’s Mangudadatu-Cojuangco and the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL).
The Comelec’s list of candidates for governor: Ashmaira Mayasa Abdullah, incumbent Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Alonto Adiong, Saad Ibrahim Amate, Pangalian Macaorao Balindong, Ephraim Baldomero Defino, former Anak Mindanaw partylist Rep. Mujiv Sabbihi Hataman, former OIC ARMM Governor Alvarez Silal Isnaji, Ansaroden Magangcong Sani Banuas Luman Moner, former Sultan Kudarat governor and representative Pax Pakung Sandigan Mangudadatu, Kadra Asani Masihul (KBL), Datu Habib Sarifuddin Samanodi Maulana, Elsie New Orejudos, former OIC Lanao del Sur Governor Saidamen Balt Pangarungan and Sahiron Dulah Salim.
Acting ARMM Governor Ansaruddin-Abdul Malik Alonto Adiong, brother of Mamintal, won the vice gubernatorial post in 2005 and 2008, as Zaldy Ampatuan’s running mate. He filed his certificate of candidacy for governor last Monday but slid down to vice governor after his elder brother, the Lanao del Sur governor, filed a COC for ARMM governor.
The candidates for vice governor are: Fatani Sultan Abdul Malik, Ansaruddin Abdul Malik Alonto Adiong, Mikunug Pangcatan Ampao, Arab Dimasimpun Ampasao, Shariffa Ziola Anding Bago, Datu Pelaez Alo Carudin, former Tarlac GovernorMargarita “Tingting” Delos Reyes Cojuangco, Bobby Manangaran Datimbang, Alikhan Awar Dimaro, Gani Usman Gaddung, Abdulbasit Ampaso Hadjinor, Omar Tani Hassiman, former Lanao del Sur governor Basher Dimalaang Manalao, Kano Pasandalan Nor, Marconi Curso Paiso Al Haj and Abdusakur II Abubakar Tan.
Based on Comelec records, 81 filed their COCs for 24 seats in the Regional Legislative Assembly. In Sulu, six candidates filed their COCs for assemblyman; nine in the second district; in Lanao del Sur, 12 filed in the first district, 12 also in the second district; in Maguindanao, five filed in the first district, 15 in the second; in Tawi-tawi, nine filed while 13 filed for three seats in the RLA representing Basilan.
Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu’s brother, Khadafy, an incumbent assemblyman, earlier filed a COC for vice governor but later opted for a reelection as assemblyman of the second district of Maguindanao.
Hataman, whose name has repeatedly been mentioned for appointment as OIC Governor, filed his COC for governor with no political party listed. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)