Incumbent officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) are incapable of instituting immediate reforms in the troubled region, particularly in prosecuting officials liable for alleged misappropriation of billions of pesos, Senator Franklin Drilon today said.

Drilon, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, made the statement after Acting Regional Gov. Ansaruddin Adiong admitted that they have passed the buck to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in going after the Ampatuan clan.

“It is quite clear to us that they are not capable of instituting these reforms because they have passed on the problem to the DILG… The acting governor admitted that he did not do anything and he did not even complain about this,” said Drilon after a hearing on the ARMM’s proposed P12.469 billion budget for 2012, pointing out huge sums of public fund being wasted during the reign of former ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan.

Drilon, citing a special audit conducted by the Commission on Audit (CoA) on the region, said that from January 2008-December 2009, a total of P1.123 billion in payments to 112 suppliers and contractors were questionable since these were either not supported with documents or supported with documents that may be considered spurious.

Further, among the findings of the state audit agency indicated that a total of P1.862 billion represented cash advances where P98.25 million were encashed in one day, with Drilon saying this is “highly improbable” considering that the purported payees were located in the different municipalities and provinces.

Also, transactions amounting to P865.8 million were fictitious as these were denied by the suppliers or supported with spurious documents. Payments of salaries and allowances amounting to P232.73 million were not properly documented or were not even acknowledged received by the claimants, the CoA report said.

“The CoA finding is indeed mind boggling in terms of the corruption and this corruption took place because the previous administration under (former President) Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo tolerated the Ampatuans in Maguindanao. I have not seen this report in all the budgets that I have been looking at in the last 12 years that I have been in the Senate,” Drilon added.

Drilon said that with such extent of corruption in the ARMM, the Aquino administration sought reforms, particularly in the selection of leaders who are committed to instituting reforms.

“There must be electoral reforms, for one, because obviously, the democratic way of election that has been conducted in the past has not given us the right leaders. That is why this is the frustration of President Aquino, that the leaders who were elected are of such caliber that the welfare of our Muslim brothers and sisters were farthest from their agenda, were at the bottom of their agenda. It is their personal power and their personal wealth which were the primordial interest of the previous officials,” said Drilon.

Reforms, Drilon said, started with the postponement of the ARMM elections and synchronization of such in the 2013 polls “which hopefully will result in a better election of leaders” and the selection of officers in charge who will have the capacity to institute the reforms.

“It is therefore a frustration on the part of the Aquino administration that they are trying to institute immediate reforms in order to try to get our Muslim brothers and sisters out of extreme poverty, but they get frustrated by legal obstacles, including TROs from the Supreme Court,” said Drilon.