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Reformers call for Mindanao poll delay

Peace process should come before voting, Muslim and civil groups say

Reformers call for Mindanao poll delay
Election in the Muslim autonomous region
Muslim and civil organizations in the southern Philippines have called for planned elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to be postponed.

"We support President Benigno Aquino’s call to defer drastic electoral reforms and to focus on the peace process," said Salic Ibrahim, convener of Reform ARMM Now and executive director of the Maranao People’s Development Center.

The presidential palace earlier announced that postponing the ARMM elections scheduled for August 8 was among 17 bills certified urgent by Aquino.

Various groups proposed that the poll be moved to 2013 to coincide with mid-term elections, saying a "transition reform government" is needed.

"Based on studies of past ARMM elections and the May 2010 elections, there is a need for drastic reforms in the electoral process before another election is held," said Ibrahim.

Edgar Ramirez of the Church-run Notre Dame University in Cotabato City said the money earmarked for the elections should instead be used for reforms.

The law creating the ARMM "needs an overhaul" before another election, said Leo Lizada of Solidarity for Peace and Equity-led Development in Cotabato City.

The newly-launched "I am for Peace and Development in Mindanao” said the planned poll will not bring the desired change in the region and would be determined by "traditional and warlord politicians" who use money and guns to cling to power.

Janree Pundato-Disomimba, the group’s leader, said elections in the region have never reflected the "real sentiments" of the people.

"We believe that the postponement of the ARMM elections is a decisive step to institute immediate political and electoral reforms," Disomimba said. "We are for reform first before we agree to hold an election," he added.

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