EDITORIAL - Prepare for the elections
() - June 7, 2011 - 12:00am

With President Aquino’s aunt running in the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, efforts to postpone the polls, scheduled on Aug. 8, appear to be losing steam. The postponement attempt, which critics described as illegal, distracted the Commission on Elections from preparations for the ARMM polls. Now the Comelec has all of two months to put the preparations in full swing.

That’s precious little time in a region that has gained notoriety for election violence and fraud. The ARMM has given the nation Lintang Bedol and disappearing election returns. Two years ago the race for governor of Maguindanao claimed 57 lives, in the country’s most atrocious case of political violence. Blame was pinned on the Ampatuan clan that, at the height of its power, could guarantee ARMM votes to any national politician. The clan was also seen as a foil against the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The peace process with the MILF has been invoked by Malacañang in supporting a postponement of this year’s elections. The ARMM is a special region carved out of Mindanao that later became one of the rewards of the Moro National Liberation Front for signing a peace treaty, with MNLF chairman Nur Misuari serving for a few years as its governor. Neither autonomy nor governance by the MNLF has lifted the region out of poverty or ended violence.

Since 1990, elections in the ARMM have been postponed eight times. The support for a postponement put President Aquino at odds with his aunt, former Tarlac governor Margarita Cojuangco, who has refused to withdraw her candidacy for ARMM vice governor.

While these intramurals continue, the Comelec should focus on ensuring that the Aug. 8 elections will be as peaceful, orderly and honest as possible. Already the debates over a postponement have prompted the Comelec to revert to a manual vote in a region where automated elections were first successfully conducted. The interminable wait for results in a manual count often aggravates poll-related violence and opens opportunities for cheating. But Comelec officials say it’s too late to prepare for an automated vote in August. They should make sure it’s not too late to make the manual vote credible.

AUTONOMOUS REGION BUT COMELEC COMELEC LINTANG BEDOL MARGARITA COJUANGCO MORO ISLAMIC LIBERATION FRONT MORO NATIONAL LIBERATION FRONT MUSLIM MINDANAO NOW THE COMELEC NUR MISUARI PRESIDENT AQUINO
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