COTABATO CITY — Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has named caretaker officers for Shariff Kabunsuan province while theis still resolving the election controversy there.
Camps of gubernatorial candidates Bimbo Sinsuat and Tocao Mastura have questioned the results of balloting in several areas, alleging fraud.
It was in Shariff Kabunsuan where members of an international poll monitoring group witnessed what they said were deliberate attempts to rig the elections. These included bomb attacks and ballot snatching.
Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, ARMM solicitor general, said the caretaker officers were sworn into office on Monday and were expected to provide continuity in government services pending a decision by the Comelec of the poll controversy.
“The delayed proclamation of the winning governor, vice governor and 10 members of the provincial legislative board has, in essence, deprived residents of services from these provincial officials, Sayadi said.
The Ampatuan appointees include Sinsuat’s niece, Noraya Sinsuat as OIC governor, his daughter Shennie as OIC vice governor, and 10 board members, mostly relatives and political allies of the Ampatuans.
But Sayadi denied any irregularity in the appointments, saying these were based on consensus.
She said Ampatuan had formed a selection committee to pick “qualified caretakers of the provincial government to avoid a political vacuum and hiatus.”
Under ARMM laws, the governor is empowered to appoint officers in charge of a local government unit under his jurisdiction if elective officials have not yet been proclaimed or have become physically incapacitated, she explained.
Sayadi said Ampatuan also based his decision on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Administrative Order No. 180, which set the guidelines in selecting caretakers for LGUs that had no proclaimed winners yet due to electoral protests.
Sayadi clarified that all the appointed officials had limited powers and that they were not allowed to hire or to fire employees.
“Any time the Comelec proclaims the winners and are sworn-in, all the OIC appointees will have to vacate their posts to give way to the elected officials,” Sayadi said. Charlie Señase and Edwin Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao