COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/ 08 June) – The future Bangsamoro has an early campaigner: Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of the Archdiocese of Cotabato, Mindanao’s first Cardinal.
Quevedo told an international conference here Saturday that he is certain “the people of Cotabato (City) will vote yes” in the next plebiscite.
“ I would like to see that ‘yes’ (vote) will succeed” in the plebiscite on the Bangsamoro, Quevedo said.
Cotabato City, seat of the Archdiocese of Cotabato, has been the “provisional seat” of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) since the ARMM’s inauguration in 1990 even as the city voted against inclusion in the ARMM in the November 1989 plebiscite.
The present ARMM compound of offices used to be the seat of the Regional Autonomous Government of Region 12, set up under the Marcos administration in the late 1970s.
In the 2001 plebiscite on the expansion of the ARMM, Cotabato City residents again voted no to inclusion in the ARMM. Basilan joined the four other ARMM provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu and Tawi-tawi in the 2001 plebiscite but Isabela City voted against inclusion.
Administratively, Cotabato City belongs to Region 12 while Isabela City in the island province of Basilan belongs to Region 9, a region in mainland Mindanao.
Region 12’s regional seat is Koronadal City. The region comprises South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat and the cities therein and Cotabato City which is not contiguous to any of the Region 12 member-provinces.
Cotabato City is contiguous to the ARMM province of Maguindanao.
The government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front on October 15, 2012 signed a Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro stating that the status quo is unacceptable and that they would work for the creation of a new autonomous political entity called the Bangamoro to replace the ARMM.
The parties also agreed on the core territory of the Bangsamoro which would include among others, the present five province-two city-ARMM, Cotabato City as well as Isabela City in Basilan.
Quevedo, whose Archdiocese organized the two-day International Conference of Cotabato at the Notre Dame University in partnership with the Community of San’t Egidio and Muhammadiyah, was responding to a question raised by Cotabato City Vice Mayor Abdullah Andang during the first session on June 7, on what would happen to Cotabato City when the Bangsamoro is set up.
Andang said the city had voted twice against inclusion in the ARMM although they had been the seat of the regional autonomous governemtns. He said they are “supporting whatever is the decision of the people of Cotabato” but added, “we do not want the ARMM or Bangsamoro government to go to Marawi or any municipality. We want it here,” he said.
For Quevedo, Cotabato City would benefit more if it remained the regional seat.
“Today, Cotabato City is part of Region 12. It is not contiguous to Region 12. Economically, politically, it is a dead city. Without connection to the ARMM, it is dead. It has no port, it has no airport, no seaport.”
“I would like. in the next plebiscite, certainly the people of Cotabato will vote yes. Why? Because the demography has changed, from predominantly Christian, now it is predominantly Muslim and therefore it is a ‘yes’,” the Cardinal said.
“I would like to see that ‘yes’ (vote will) succeed. Because I would like to see the city recover its pristine position as a city in Central Mindanao and Mindanao itself,” he said.
“If it becomes the center of ARMM, if it becomes the center of the Bangsamoro, then I would like to see the Bangsamoro government change the boundaries of the city so that it will include the airport, it will include the seaport and recover its economic privilege, economic and political. That is my hope, that is my answer,” Quevedo added.
The “Cotabato airport” is actually located in Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat town while the seaport is in Parang, Maguindanao.
The city’s population as of the May 2010 records of the National Statistical Coordination Board is 271,786.
In the Comelec’s book of voters, Cotabato and Isabela cities are not listed under Region 12 or Region 9, respectively, but under ARMM’s Maguindanao and Basilan, respectively.
The 2013 National and Local Elections Statistics posted on the Comelec website, shows that Cotabato City had 104,975 registered voters and 50,834 actually voted or 48.42% while isabela had 63,130 registered voters and 40,143 actually voted or 63.59%. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)