Region 12? Central Mindanao? Soccsksargen? South-Central? Cotabato? Southwestern Mindanao?

“Region XII” comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and this city.

“Region XII,” Lim explained to the media, is the compromise name even as the new name should have been  “Cotabato region,” in deference to other leaders who prefer “Soccsksargen” [South Cotabato, (North) Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City].

But “Region XII” as a “compromise” is problematic because who would know, outside the region, what the number signifies?

The creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in 1989 and Caraga in 1995 changed the alignments of what were simply known as Western Mindanao (Region 9), Northern Mindanao (Region 10), Southern Mindanao (Region 11) and Central Mindanao (Region 12).

MindaNews columnist Patricio Diaz, former editor of the Cotabato City-based Mindanao Cross and later Mindanao Kris, has written several columns on these realignments and has repeatedly argued that “Central Mindanao” was “abolished geographically, that is, when President Corazon C. Aquino issued Executive Order 429 in 1990 to realign Regions 9 and 12 affecting the other Mindanao regions.”

Aquino realigned the regions when Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, then belonging to “Region 12” or “Central Mindanao,” and Sulu and Tawi-tawi, then belonging to “Region 9” or “Western Mindanao,” voted for inclusion in the ARMM in the November 1989 plebiscite.

In the Organic Act creating the ARMM, Cotabato City was named “temporary” seat of the ARMM, supposedly until its Regional Legislative Assembly (RLA) designates a “permanent seat.” Today, Cotabato City remains the “temporary” seat.

EO 429 moved the regional seat of Region 9 to Pagadian City and Region 12 to Koronadal. But the EO met opposition from leaders of Zamboanga City, then seat of Region 9, and Cotabato City, then seat of Region 12.

Another layer of confusion came in the 1990s when “growth areas” were in vogue and the South Cotabato-Sarangani-General Santos City economic grouping became known as SocSarGen.

The Mindanao map published by the Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) in August 2000 refers to the area as “SoSKSarGen” to include Sultan Kudarat province.

After the August 2001 plebiscite when Marawi City and Basilan joined the ARMM, President Arroyo issued Executive Order 36, to implement the transfer of the seats of regional governments under EO 429 and to make the necessary alignments following the inclusion of  Marawi City and Basilan in the ARMM.

In his March 3, 2005 column, Diaz asked, “what can we do about Region 12, not only to be consistent but to be correct and truthful?”

Diaz said that looking at the map, if one were to look at the present composition of the region, “Region 12 is in the southwestern part of
Mindanao. So, Region 12 is Southwestern Mindanao. That is not arguable.”

He noted how “difficult” it is “to make the leaders of Region 12 change their wrong reference out of habit or of bias or of mistakes they believe as correct.”

“I mailed Gov. Daisy Fuentes a copy of my January 13 Comment, ‘To RDC XII and Others Concerned’ explaining the point. To no avail!,” he said.

“Only in matters of controversial facts should journalists report exactly what their sources say. But if the sources are wrong according to established and accepted facts – as the map of Mindanao is – journalists must correct their sources or not publish their reports at all,” Diaz said.

Since then, MindaNews had been referring to the region as “Region 12 (Southwestern Mindanao)” to guide the reader that the number refers to southwestern Mindanao on the map.

MindaNews will continue referring to the region as such.