Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and its Absurdities
By Atty. Algamar A. LatiphSeptember 14, 2010
ith the selection of new members of the peace panels for the Governmentof the Republic of the Philippines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, thepeace process now start afresh. Returning to the table and mapping out theroad to peace is the only option available. Neither party would choosemilitary option.The Aquino administration, likewise, put Autonomous Region in MuslimMindanao on its radar screen this was its pronouncement during the Eidl FitrDinner in Malacanang last September 14, 2010.Backed by a popular mandate and with a slogan of anti-corruption,accountability and good governance, a unique opportunity was created forthe people of ARMM. It is, thus, now left to the Aquino government to facethe challenge and seize the moment.The ARMM is confronted with so many issues and it is waiting for a morecreative alternative to face them. Despite its nearly two decades existence, theregion is the worst practically in all the indicators of Human DevelopmentIndex. Is the problem attributable the ARMM as an organization or the peoplerunning it?The Constitution espouses decentralization of powers as the structuralrelations between the national government and local government units. Thisdecentralization policy should be construed to exclude ARMM inasmuch asthere should be only one autonomous entity within the region of ARMM. Torule otherwise would bring an absurd situation where we have anautonomous region, the ARMM, governing various autonomous LGUs.Incidentally, the autonomous power of LGUs is provided for under theLocal Government Code. When this law was enacted there was no ARMMyet. But when ARMM was legislated and, thereafter, revised, there was noeffort to, accordingly, amend and harmonize the LGC in favor of ARMM asthe sole autonomous entity within the region.Consequently, we have this ARMM and LGUs structural defect makingthe former impotent to discharge its mandate. But this, of course, woulddepend on the people who will run the ARMM.The problem of accountability besets ARMM. The latter is a new creatureunlike the LGUs and other structures of the government. Like, an infantARMM needs proper parental guidance. When it was formed, accountabilityoversights are already in place to discipline it during its formative stage.Thus, we have the Office of the Ombudsman and Civil Service Commission(on disciplining bodies), Commission on Audit (on public fund andproperties), and Congress (on budget). Unfortunately, these institutions haveyet to assert, effectively, its constitutional duty in overseeing the performanceof ARMM.