JR Lopez Gonzales 4:06 PM 2
Elections are indeed, one of the most essential features of the Philippine republican democracy. The right of suffrage advances the principle that sovereignty resides in the people and that all government authority emanates from them.
But one should not forget that as a representative democracy, the people came into a social contract with the state and the government to do things legitimately on the peoples’ behalf.
Last October 18, in a close 8-7 decision by the Supreme Court, the Republic Act 10153 was upheld for Malacañang to appoint officials or extend the term of incumbent leaders without holding the scheduled elections. It also authorizes the President to appoint Officers-In-Charge (OICs) to replace incumbent ARMM officials and allow for synchronization with the national elections in 2013.
This position paper affirms the decision of the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the ARMM Elections postponement from May 2011 to May 2013. The paper contends that there is a sound reason why one would have to believe that the said act is constitutional.
Firstly, it is within the power of Congress to synchronize the elections. In the government’s administration, it is of great importance to look into the “decisions of courts interpreting the characters of administrative bodies and defining their powers, rights, inhibitions, among others, and the effects of their determinations and regulations”  as such concerns both the government and the polity. In a press interview, Supreme Court spokesperson Midas Marquez stated that, “The majority believes that it is in the Power of congress to synchronize ARMM elections and it is also in the power of the Congress to authorize the President to appoint OIC’s”.
The Screening Committee feature of the act was supposed to submit to the President on or before September 20 a shortlist of three names per position, for him to choose the OIC Governor, OIC Vice Governor and 24 members of the regional Legislative Assembly who will “reform” and “transform” the ARMM from September 30 until June 30, 2013.
Secondly, according to Marquez, the synchronization of the ARMM elections with the national elections to be held two years from now goes with the logic that “if local political families must attend to their election at the same time that national elections are being conducted, they will be less able to utilize command votes in favor of political patrons to subvert the national will”.
Such postponement in the ARMM elections is not new. The first postponement by R.A. 9140 (approved on June 22, 2001) came before R.A. 9054 (ARMM Organic Law) was ratified. In fact, R.A. 9140 set the ratification date on August 15, 2001 and the elections on November 26, 2001.
Nonetheless, the goal of the said Supreme Court decision is to iron out the kinks on the region marred with decades of violence and impunity. According to the presidential press statement, “The administration incessantly supported the bill to synchronize the ARMM elections with national elections in an effort to end the vicious cycle of abnormal elections where the mandate of the people is subverted by means of the command vote wielded by local political families”.
The existence of “command voting” has contributed to the cycle of impunity, the results of which have been demonstrated in the region being bloodied by the reign of impunity, as witnessed by the Maguindanao Massacre, in which 57 people were allegedly killed by a local political family.
This same impunity also showed itself in the anomalies in office Maguindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan not being able to account for the release of more than 865 million in cash advances to officers.
Apparently, the President’s government-appointed OIC is a means to get rid and take control of the ARMM officials who have gained control of the region. Notwithstanding this rather obvious fact, it is still held that the Power of congress covers the synchronization of the ARMM elections and to authorize the President to appoint OIC’s. The writer sees this as a deterrent to the ARMM political families to commit election related crimes thus agreeing to the constitutionality of the Supreme Court decision.
Reference: Cruz, Carlo L. Philippine Administrative Law. 2003 Ed. Manila: Central Law Books Publishing Co., Inc. 20. p.5.