MANILA, Philippines - Congressmen-allies of President Aquino yesterday defended his decision to appoint his former House colleague, Mujiv Hataman, as officer-in-charge (OIC) governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said Aquino has to form his transition team in the Muslim region even while the Supreme Court (SC) has yet to rule on motions seeking reconsideration of its decision last Oct. 18 allowing the postponement of the ARMM elections and the appointment of OICs.
Barzaga said there was no more legal impediment for the President to organize his team, which will take over from holdover officers whose term of office expired last Sept. 30.
“The Supreme Court itself allowed him to do so. The fact that motions for reconsideration are pending does not bar the President from doing what the court allowed him to do,” he said.
Barzaga was responding to criticisms that Aquino should have waited for the tribunal to rule on these motions before appointing Hataman as OIC governor and Bainon Karon of the Moro National Liberation Front’s women’s group as OIC vice governor.
“The President could not have done that, as he did not know when the final ruling would be forthcoming. It may not even come before the May 2013 synchronized elections, when people in the ARMM will elect their new leaders,” he said.
“And even assuming that the motion for reconsideration would be granted, meaning that the SC would reverse its Oct. 18 decision, then that reversed decision could be again the subject of a motion for reconsideration by the government. I don’t think all these things will be finished before the elections in 2013,” he added.
Barzaga said that clearly, Aquino could not have waited interminably to put in place his transition team in the autonomous Muslim region.
Another administration ally, Sherwin Tugna of the party-list group Citizens Battle Against Corruption, said the President should have enforced the will of Congress in approving the postponement law when the SC upheld its constitutionality.
“But in deference to the court and those who questioned the law, he waited for more than two months before appointing his transition and reform team,” he said.
Meanwhile, a rousing welcome awaits Hataman when he assumes office here anytime soon.
Human rights lawyer Anwar Malang, convenor of the Reform ARMM Now, said more than 50 cause-oriented and peace advocacy groups will converge in the 32-hectare ARMM compound when Hataman takes over from outgoing acting Gov. Ansaruddin Adiong, whose three-year term as regional vice governor ended on Sept. 30.– With John Unson - By Jess Diaz