Sunday, December 20, 2009

'Gibo' joins calls for ARMM abolition

December 20, 2009, 4:31pm

Original Story:

Administration presidential candidate Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro Jr. has joined the calls for the abolition of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), saying its creation two decades ago merely resulted in “systematic failure.”

“The results speak for themselves,” Teodoro said, citing the region’s inability to control violence, a spate of kidnappings and rampant lawlessness.

He noted that last month’s massacre of 57 people in Mindanao in the major election-related killings in the country was linked to the powerful Ampatuan clan, a scion of which is governor of ARMM.

Teodoro, the standard-bearer of the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD in the 2010 presidential elections, said the people of five provinces and one city comprising the ARMM would have the final say on whether the strife-torn region can continue or not.

He said a vote in the ARMM provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and the city of Marawi may have to be called to allow stakeholders to review the ARMM performance and decide if they wish the r egion to continue under the set-up.

“This is very controversial but I have to say it. We cannot allow the taxpayers to subsidize the operation of an institution that is clearly not working,” Teodoro said, following his visit to Buluan town in Maguindanao, his third in as many weeks.

“We must ask the ARMM’s constituents whether they prefer local autonomy or to revert to national government supervision,” he added.

Created in the 1990s, the ARMM brought self-rule to the Muslim minority instead of secession but failed dismally to uplift lives in the country's most depressed region.

More than P12 billion in government funds have been poured into the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao coffers for peace and order and economic development.
Teodoro also called on the government to conduct a full audit of the funds that were provided the ARMM to determine whether they reached their intended users.

He said that the various sectors and groups in the ARMM must meet to decide whether the ARMM has proven responsive to their needs. “It is up to them (stake holders) whether the ARMM should continue to exist or not,” Teodoro said.

The Lakas-Kampi-CMD presidential bet said the ARMM should serve a lesson to the government in future decisions that would grant autonomy to any region or province in the country.

“Before granting autonomy, the government must also determine whether the territory or province petitioning for it is really capable of handling responsibilities appurtenant to being an independent entity,” Teodoro stressed.

Concerned groups in the ARMM have started calling for the abolition of the ARMM for its failure to address basic social and economic issues, widespread corruption among the local bureaucracy, and coddling by some of its officials of private armed groups.

Republic Act No. 9054 that created the ARMM in 1990 provides that the autonomous region “shall remain an integral and inseparable part of the national territory of the Republic.” The President exercises general supervision over the regional governor.

The regional government has the power to create its own sources of revenues and to levy taxes, fees, and charges, subject to constitutional provisions and the provisions of RA 9054.

Reports showed that ARMM remains one of the most impoverished areas in the Philippines. It had a per capita gross regional domestic product of only P3,433 in 2005, 75.8 percent lower than the national average of P14,186.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has a population of 4.1 million based on the 2007 census. It is the country's poorest region, where average annual income was 89,000 pesos in 2006, less than one-third of the Manila level. Poverty incidence in the region was a high 45.4 percent in 2003, almost twice the national average of 24.4 percent.

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