Drilon: August ARMM election is unconstitutional

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The holding of the elections in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in August is unconstitutional, Senator Franklin Drilon said Wednesday, as both chambers of Congress are scrambling to pass a consolidated version of a measure postponing the ARMM elections set on August 8.

Drilon, principal author of Senate Bill 2756 seeking to defer the ARMM elections, said that the enabling law--Republic Act 9333--provides for a desynchronized election and is inconsistent with the constitutional mandate to synchronize local and national elections.

The administration-backed move to defer the ARMM polls for the purpose of synchronizing that election with the national and local elections is "actually in harmony with the intention of the Constitution to hold synchronized elections," said Drilon, a former Justice secretary, in sponsoring SB 2756 which was earlier sent to the archives but was later revived to pave the way for floor deliberations.

"We cannot spend public funds for this purpose. The August 2011 ARMM elections must be canceled," Drilon added.

He said the Supreme Court, in the 1991 case of OsmeƱa et al. vs. Commission on Elections, struck down as unconstitutional RA 7056 which called for the holding of a national election on the second Monday of May 1992 and the local election on the second Monday of November 1992 and declared: "It thus becomes very evident that the Constitution has mandated a synchronized national and local election. With the clear mandate of the 1987 Constitution to hold synchronized (simultaneous) national and local election... the inevitable conclusion would be that Republic Act 7056 is clearly violative of the Constitution because it provides for the holding of a desynchronized election."

"This ruling, we strongly submit, is squarely controlling on RA 9333... Any public funds spent for that purpose is illegal," he said.

Drilon also cited the argument of Fr. Joaquin Bernas, a known constitutionalist and member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, that while the desire of the Constitution to synchronize both local and national elections is not explicitly stated, it can be found in Sections 2 and 5 of the transitory provisions.

"And since the ARMM elections are local elections, it stands to reason that they should be synchronized with other local elections," Bernas stated.

Drilon also slammed critics of the bill postponing the ARMM polls, saying that the proposal does not in effect amend Republic Act 9054 or the Organic Act.

"Nowhere in the Organic Act is a specific date for the holding of regular elections prescribed. The only provision in the Organic Act that mentions a date for elections is found in the transitory provisions, Article XVIII, Section 7, which refers specifically and explicitly only to the first regular elections conducted after the adoption of the Organic Act," Drilon said, pointing out that the bill setting the ARMM polls on the second Monday of May 2013 and the subsequent elections on the same date every three years "in no way amends, repeals, revises or changes any provision of the Organic Act.